Yemen peace talks in Sweden a 'vital first step' says Washington

  • Yemen peace talks in Sweden a 'vital first step' says Washington

Yemen peace talks in Sweden a 'vital first step' says Washington

Previous talks in September collapsed when the Houthis failed to show up.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Tuesday that the Sweden talks are a "critical opportunity".

On Monday, a UN-chartered plane carrying 50 wounded Houthi fighters and three Yemeni doctors left Sana'a for Oman's capital, Muscat, for treatment.

On Tuesday, a Houthi delegation arrived in Sweden for the peace talks, the first since 2016.

Yemeni sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that a delegation representing the legitimate government would only travel to Sweden after making sure that a Houthi delegation touches foot in the European country, where peace talks are not expected before Thursday.

"We have no illusions that this process will be easy, but we welcome this necessary and vital first step", Heather Nauert, US State Department spokeswoman, said.

A security official inside Sanaa airport told AFP the rebels had begun to board the private, UN-supervised flight on Monday evening.

"The country with the biggest problem in 2019 is going to be Yemen", OCHA chief Mark Lowcock told reporters in Geneva.

Skau would not confirm the location of the talks, only to say they will be "near" the Swedish capital, Stockholm.

"The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffith, communicated to us that coalition forces and the Yemeni government have also signed the prisoner exchange agreement that was signed in November by the Houthis".

The deal was struck by United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths.

On the government side, they include former defence minister Mahmoud al-Subaihi, who has been held by rebels ever since they overran the capital in late 2014, and President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi s brother Nasser, a general and former senior intelligence official.

The crisis in Yemen spiralled after a Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive to support the government against Iran-backed Huthi rebels in March of 2015.

Rights groups fear the actual toll is far higher. Three-quarters of impoverished Yemen's population, or 22 million people, require aid.

He said the stark figures underlined the importance of progress in the talks in Sweden. If the talks show results, "it is possible that we could find by the second half of the year that the extreme edge could get taken off the suffering of those people who have no form of income", Lowcock said, while noting that diplomatic gains were hard to predict.

The United States welcomed the prospect of peace talks on Tuesday, less than a week after USA senators moved forward with a historic resolution to halt Washington's support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

But fresh fighting flared on Monday and the coalition spokesman said military operations were "ongoing".

Outrage over the October 2 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has intensified global scrutiny of Saudi activities in the region, potentially giving Western powers, which provide arms and intelligence to the coalition, more leverage to demand action.