Wounded rebels evacuated from Yemen on United Nations charter flight

Yemen war: Wounded Houthis rebels to be evacuated

Yemen war: Wounded Houthis rebels to be evacuated

"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.

Peace talks between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels are set to begin on Thursday in Sweden, the United Nations announced, after weeks of global pressure to get the warring sides to negotiate towards an end to the conflict.

Members of a Yemeni rebel delegation prepare to fly 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, on 4 December 2018 in Sanaa.

Under heavy global pressure, Saudi-backed pro-government forces have largely suspended an offensive launched in June to take the port city.

Yemen's two main warring factions are meeting in Sweden today for the first time since peace talks broke down in 2016.

The almost four-year-old conflict, which has killed thousands and spawned the world's most urgent humanitarian crisis, pits the Iranian-aligned Houthis against other Yemeni forces backed by a coalition loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

On the government side, they include former Defense Minister Mahmoud Al-Subaihi, who has been held by the Houthis since they overran the capital in late 2014, and President Hadi's brother Nasser, a general and former senior intelligence official.

Yemen war: Wounded Houthis rebels to be evacuated

The fate of wounded Huthis had been a stumbling block to the start of a previous round of aborted peace talks in Geneva in September, when the rebel delegation refused to leave Sanaa for the scheduled negotiations.

The announcement of a deal on Tuesday to swap hundreds of detainees was hailed by the International Committee of the Red Cross as "one step in the right direction toward the building of mutual trust".

The agreement, struck by the United Nations envoy in weeks of shuttle diplomacy, came after the wounded Houthis were flown out for treatment on Monday, meeting a key Houthi precondition for joining the talks.

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 2 October. Three-quarters of impoverished Yemen's population, or 22 million people, require aid. "This is a country that is in a catastrophe", the head of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, said.

The Canadian government provides aid to Yemen, which faces the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

Joost Hiltermann, the MENA programme director at the International Crisis Group, said Griffiths should aim to get an agreement during the negotiations to stave off a Saudi-led coalition offensive on the critical Yemeni port city of Hodeidah.

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