Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Yemen government delegation heads to Sweden for peace talks with Houthi group

Yemen peace talks in Sweden a ‘vital first step’ says Washington Sweden talks critical opportunity for Yemen peace
Ellis Copeland | 07 December, 2018, 21:06

Representatives of the internationally-recognized Yemeni government and Houthi rebels are set to meet in Stockholm for UN-sponsored talks aimed at ending the four-year conflict in the impoverished country.

The Huthi rebels arrived on a Kuwaiti plane from Sanaa following a prisoner swap deal and the evacuation of 50 wounded insurgents for treatment in Oman in a major boost to peace efforts.

A 12-member team from the Saudi-backed government headed by Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani left Riyadh early Wednesday, sources told AFP, a day after rebel delegates landed in Stockholm accompanied by the United Nations peace envoy.

The head of the 12-member Houthi delegation, Mohammed Abdelsalam, said it would "spare no effort to make a success of the talks to restore peace and end the aggression".

At the same time he called on rebel fighters to remain "vigilant against any attempt at a military escalation on the ground".

"The [UN envoy] would like to announce the restart of the intra-Yemeni political process in Sweden on 6 December", Griffiths' office said on Twitter on Wednesday.

It was not clear if the warring parties would hold direct talks or if Griffiths would shuttle between the two sides.

Also on Monday, the Houthi rebels said they were informed by Griffiths that the coalition had signed a prisoner swap deal, which the Houthis signed in November.

The tone from all sides appeared to be more positive than the last round of talks in Geneva, which failed to even bring the Houthis to the table.

Yemen peace talks in Sweden a ‘vital first step’ says Washington

The United Arab Emirates, another key backer of the beleaguered government, said the planned talks offered a "critical opportunity" to end almost four years of war.

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

Al-Murtaza added that his group were completing the deal's procedures.

He said in a tweet that the Coalition supporting the legitimate government in Yemen has "succeeded in accomplishing many goals of the military operation and always asserted the need to force the Houthi delegation to come to the negotiating table and implement worldwide resolutions, especially UN Security Council Resolution 2216".

The Houthis had required the travel before their delegation leaving for Sweden to participate in the peace talks. "We [Houthis] received a signed copy of the agreement".

A government team, headed by Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani, was expected in Sweden Wednesday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed his support for the talks in a tweet on Monday.

The Saudi-led alliance intervened in the civil war in 2015 after the Houthi movement ousted Hadi's government from the Yemeni capital Sanaa in 2014.

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.

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