Yemen's Houthis head to Sweden for peace talks

Yemen peace talks in Sweden a ‘vital first step’ says Washington

Sweden talks critical opportunity for Yemen peace

The UN envoy arrived in Sana'a on Monday in a bid to pave the way for peace talks, which come after almost four years of war that have led to displacement, food insecurity, outbreaks of cholera and diphtheria across the country.

A UN-chartered flight left Sanaa with 50 wounded rebels on board and landed in Muscat, Oman's official ONA news agency reported. Before boarding a Kuwaiti plane, one delegate praised him for delivering on confidence-building measures like the evacuation of wounded fighters and a prisoner swap deal.

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.

On Monday, about 50 wounded Houthi rebels were evacuated from the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and flown to Oman to receive treatment.

On the government side, they include former defence minister Mahmoud al-Subaihi, who has been held by the rebels ever since they overran the capital in late 2014, and President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's brother Nasser, a general and former senior intelligence official.

However, the OCHA head also stressed that the outlook of Yemen could improve if progress is made at UN-brokered peace negotiations that are to begin in Sweden this month.

He said the dire figures underlined the importance of the planned peace talks in Sweden.

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

It also comes ahead of United Nations -sponsored talks in Stockholm, Sweden this month between Yemeni government officials and Houthi rebels aimed at ending the more than three-year war.

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Thousands of prisoners have been captured by both sides in the grinding war of attrition that has devastated Yemen at a cost of almost 10,000 lives since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in March 2015, according to World Health Organization figures.

Iran also offered support on Monday, saying it was ready to cooperate with the worldwide community to resolve the crisis.

The demands are unacceptable to the rebels and subsequent global peace efforts, including three months of negotiations in Kuwait that broke down in 2016, have focused on a power-sharing government and a federal political system.

"The country with the biggest problem in 2019 is going to be Yemen", OCHA chief Mark Lowcock told reporters in Geneva.

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.

The coalition spokesman said military operations in Hodeida were "ongoing" on Monday.

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.

Rights groups fear the actual toll is far higher.

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