Published: Wed, December 05, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Yemen government delegation leaves for United Nations peace talks in Sweden

Yemen government delegation leaves for United Nations peace talks in Sweden

The fate of wounded rebels had been a stumbling block to the start of a previous round of aborted peace talks in Geneva in September.

Abdullah Al-Alimy, head of Yemen's Presidency Office, said on his official Twitter account that the government delegation will put the concerns and aspirations of the Yemeni people as the priority.

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.

On Monday, a UN-chartered plane carrying 50 wounded Houthi fighters and three Yemeni doctors left Sana'a for Oman's capital, Muscat, for treatment.

The UN has actively sought to get the warring parties together for peace negotiations to bring an end to the devastating conflict and this would be the first peace talks since 2016.

"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 United Nations says the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, already the worst in the world, will deteriorate in 2019, almost four years after a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia invaded the impoverished country and began an intense campaign of airstrikes and ground attacks which are still ongoing.


The International Committee of the Red Cross said it welcomed the announcement and would oversee and facilitate the exchange.

Skau would not confirm the location of the talks, only to say they will be "near" the Swedish capital, Stockholm.

The UN's Yemen envoy visited rebel-held Sanaa on Monday as wounded insurgents were flown out of the capital for medical treatment, a key step towards bringing warring parties to the negotiating table in Sweden.

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

More than 10,000 people are said to have been killed since the Saudi-led pro-government coalition intervened in the conflict in early 2015, according to the World Health Organisation, although human rights groups are adamant that the actual toll is far higher. The UN estimates that in 2019 about 24 million people in Yemen will need assistance and humanitarian protection.

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.

The United States welcomed the prospect of peace talks on Tuesday, less than a week after USA senators moved forward with a historic resolution to halt Washington's support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

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