Yemen rebels head to Sweden for key peace talks

A member of the Houthi delegation participating in the negotiations in Sweden departs from Sanaa airport Yemen

A previous attempt by Griffiths to convene peace talks in Switzerland in September collapsed when rebels failed to show up, saying they had not received sufficient guarantees of safe passage through the crippling air and sea blockade that a Saudi-led coalition fighting alongside the government has enforced since March 2015.

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

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.

Yemen's government and the Houthi rebels said Tuesday they had agreed to swap prisoners in another boost to United Nations efforts to convene new peace talks later this month.

Abu Dhabi - Proposed UN-led talks in Sweden mark a "critical opportunity" to bring peace to Yemen, a top Emirati official said Tuesday.

"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.

Yemeni government official Hadi Haig said between 1,500 and 2,000 pro-government personnel and between 1,000 and 1,500 rebels would be released.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock presented the organisation's Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) 2019 in Geneva on Tuesday, in which it is estimated that in 2019 almost 132 million people in 42 countries will need assistance and humanitarian protection, many due to conflicts, the main cause for humanitarian intervention.

Although no date has been announced for the start of the negotiations, Yemeni government sources said they could begin as early as Thursday.

The UN envoy has said he has secured the Houthis' agreement to discuss handing over the city's vital port to UN supervision to head off any disruption of the vital aid lifeline.

"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 percent of the whole population, would need humanitarian assistance next year, he added.

Lowcock said that if the talks bear fruit, "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."

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.

Outrage over the October 2 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has intensified worldwide 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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