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Yemen peace talks to begin on Thursday in Sweden, UN confirms
06 December 2018, 01:45 | Glen Norman
Sweden set to host Yemen peace talks as coalition agrees Houthi wounded evacuation
Although no date has been announced for the start of the talks, Yemeni government sources say they could get underway on Thursday.
A coalition-backed government offensive on the rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida has threatened to cut virtually the only gateway for UN-supervised aid.
Peace talks between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels are set to begin on Thursday in Sweden, the United Nations announced, after weeks of global pressure to get the warring sides to negotiate towards an end to the conflict.
A 12-member government delegation, led by Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani, arrived in Stockholm Wednesday evening, one day after a rebel delegation flew in from Sanaa - accompanied by the United Nations envoy.
Yemen talks set to start in Sweden after wounded Houthis evacuated
The UN has been trying to revive talks between the government led by President Abdrabbuh Mansour and the Iranian-backed Houthis who control much of the north.
The negotiations are a renewed push to end a civil war that has brought economic ruin and starvation to the country and are considered the biggest step towards peace since 2016.
A United Nations source told Reuters news agency the two sides were unlikely to hold direct talks at a castle outside Stockholm and that United Nations envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths and his team would shuttle between them for the consultations.
The almost four-year-old conflict, which has killed thousands and left millions facing starvation, pits the Iranian-aligned Houthi group against Yemeni forces backed by an Arab coalition loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
He added that the team would make efforts for the success of the talks, which are a "real chance for peace".
The Sweden meeting follows two major confidence-boosting gestures between the warring parties - a prisoner swap deal and the evacuation of 50 wounded insurgents from the Houthi-held capital for treatment in neutral Oman.
At the same time, he called on rebel fighters to remain "vigilant against any attempt at a military escalation on the ground".
"This is one step in the right direction towards the building of mutual trust among Yemeni communities", ICRC spokeswoman Mirella Hodeib said. "This is a country that is in a catastrophe", the head of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, said.
Western powers, which provide arms and intelligence to the coalition, may now have greater leverage to demand action on Yemen after outrage over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul led to increased scrutiny of the kingdom's activities in the region.
The coalition said in a statement it had agreed on the evacuation "for humanitarian considerations and as part of confidence-building measures" ahead of the talks, which are also due to focus on a transitional governing body.
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