Talks between Yemen war rivals 'difficult but critical'

Expectations low as Yemen's warring parties meet for talks

Expectations low as Yemen's warring parties meet for talks

"We will judge whether the Stockholm talks are serious or not tomorrow", Huthi spokesman Mohammed Abdelsalam told the Arabic-language Al-Mayadeen television channel Thursday night.

The envoy said that the consultations taking place between the legitimate government and the Houthi militias in the picturesque Swedish village of Rimbo and which are the first since the Kuwait talks in 2016, presented a "critical opportunity" to push the peace process forward.

The Saudi-led military coalition, which includes troops trained by the USA and UAE, has for months led an offensive to retake Hodeida, the last rebel stronghold on Yemen's Red Sea coast and the conduit for 90 percent of vital food imports.

Hamid Issam, a member of the team of Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Sweden, however, dismissed Yamani's role in the talks altogether.

They are slated to last for one week, according to a source in the UN.

The prisoner swap deal would reunite thousands of families, Griffiths said.

As of October 2017, the number of suspected cholera cases exceeded more than 750,000, and at least 2,135 people had died from the waterborne bacterial infection in Yemen in ten months, said the WHO.

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The UN peace negotiations got underway in the Swedish capital city of Stockholm on Thursday amid continuous obstruction attempts by theHouthi militias violating the declared truce in Yemen's Hodeidah port city. Saudi Arabia and its allies also allowed the Huthis to evacuate 50 wounded rebels from Sanaa for medical treatment in Oman.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom and United Nations envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths attend the opening press conference on United Nations -sponsored peace talks for Yemen at Johannesberg castle, in Rimbo, Sweden, Dec. 6, 2018.

"We'd like to take Hodeidah out of the conflict because ... it's the humanitarian pipeline to the rest of the country", Griffiths said.

During the meeting, Wallstrom urged both parties to bury their differences and reconcile to end the conflict, which has claimed over 10,000 lives, including women and children. The Saudi-led coalition trying to drive the Houthis out of Yemen say they receive Iranian-made weapons through the port - a charge Iran denies.

"We would like to see that airport open, but it needs to be assessed", he said.

The other main route in and out of Houthi territory is the Sanaa airport, but access is restricted by the Saudi-led coalition which controls the air space. Worldwide pressure to end the Yemen conflict reached unprecedented heights in recent weeks, as all eyes turned to Saudi Arabia's policies following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The war, widely seen across the region as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been stalemated for years, threatening supply lines to feed almost 30-million inhabitants. Griffiths had attempted to bring the two sides together for UN-sponsored talks in Geneva in September of this year, but the rebels failed to appear. Sources in both camps have held firm to their demands in Sweden, as battles continue to rage back home, particularly in the flashpoint Red Sea city of Hodeida.

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