Published: Wed, December 05, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Houthis Unsure about Success of Sweden Talks on Yemen

Houthis Unsure about Success of Sweden Talks on Yemen

A previous UN-brokered attempt to bring the Huthis and the Saudi-backed government to the negotiating table collapsed in Switzerland in September.

Kuwait's Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah told reporters that a rebel delegation was now set to leave Sanaa for Stockholm on Tuesday together with his country's ambassador to Yemen.

The announcement comes ahead of UN-sponsored talks expected to be held in Stockholm on Wednesday between Yemeni government officials and Houthi rebels.

A rebel delegation flew out of the Yemeni capital Tuesday accompanied by a United Nations peace envoy, heading for high-stakes talks in Sweden with the government aimed at ending the country's devastating war.

The Saudi-backed government has said it would follow the Houthis for the consultations, the first since 2016, which are also due to focus on a transitional governing body.

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

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", said Mark Lowcock, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in a press conference in the Swiss city of Geneva on Tuesday.

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Griffiths hopes to reach a deal on reopening Sanaa airport and securing a prisoner swap and a ceasefire in Hodeidah as a foundation for a wider truce, including a halt to coalition air strikes that have killed thousands of civilians and Houthi missile attacks on Saudi cities.

"The UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, communicated to us that coalition forces and the Yemeni [self-proclaimed] government have also signed the prisoner exchange agreement that was signed in November by the Houthis", he said.

"There are a lot of [senior] people being held by the Houthis, such as the former Minister of Defence, General Mahmoud Al Subaihi, and one of Hadi's relatives, his nephew, Nasser Ahmed Mansour Hadi", al-Deen told Al Jazeera. Overall, 24 million people in Yemen - roughly 75 per cent of the population - will need humanitarian assistance in 2019.

The group has agreed to travel on a plane provided by Kuwait, a source familiar with the talks said.

The nearly four years of the Yemeni war have killed more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, displaced 3 million others, and pushed the country to the brink of starvation.

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 October 2.

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

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