Yemen peace talks to start on Thursday in Sweden

Yemen peace talks to start on Thursday in Sweden

Representatives of the Houthi rebels, who control about a third of the country, including the capital, Sanaa, and the port city of Hodeidah, arrived in Stockholm last night after being personally escorted out of the country by the UN's special envoy, Martin Griffith. Dozens of wounded Houthi fighters were also allowed to leave Yemen and seek treatment in nearby Oman.

Previously, a representative of the Ansar Allah Houthi organization told Sputnik that Houthis were ready to take part in talks on Yemen in Sweden, but demanded that the United Nations resolved the issue of providing the aircraft, issuing the permit for its departure and the delegation's security.

Yemeni Houthi officials are expected to travel to Sweden shortly for talks as early as Wednesday to end the almost four-year-old war after the Saudi-led coalition allowed the evacuation of some of their wounded for treatment.

The fate of wounded rebels had been a stumbling block to the start of a previous round of aborted peace talks in September.

Additional momentum towards peace has come from the mounting Western pressure on Saudi Arabia since the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom's Istanbul consulate on 2 October.

The U.S. Senate is due to consider this week a resolution to end support for the conflict, seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its arch-foe in the Middle East, Iran.

Griffiths was in Sanaa earlier this week to meet with Houthi rebel leaders, and he then travelled to Sweden with a Houthi delegation on Tuesday.

Yemen peace talks to start on Thursday in Sweden
Yemen peace talks to start on Thursday in Sweden

According to United Nations and Yemeni sources, the reopening of Sanaa worldwide airport, which has been under coalition blockade, is among the confidence-building measures up for discussion in Sweden.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said it backed the talks and was ready to help find a political solution, Iranian state TV reported on Monday.

In recent days, Griffiths has held talks separately with officials from both warring parties as part of efforts to lay the groundwork for talks in Sweden.

The Arab alliance intervened in the war in 2015 to restore the internationally recognized government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi but has bogged down in military stalemate, despite superior air power, since seizing the southern port of Aden that year.

The talks, which will focus on reopening Sanaa airport, implementing a prisoner swap and securing a truce in Hodeidah, the entry point for most of Yemen's commercial goods and aid. Three-quarters of the population, or 22 million, rely on aid.

Twenty-nine million civilians are in need of humanitarian aid while 14 million are at risk of starvation as a result of the war and subsequent sieges which the Saudi-led coalition has imposed on a number of cities in an effort to starve and fore Houthi fighters out of them.

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