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

Police cars are seen in front of Johannesberg Castle in Rimbo Sweden Wednesday. — Reuters

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.

Meanwhile, the Saudi-backed government's delegation is expected to arrive in Sweden on Wednesday, according to a source affiliated with the government.

Representatives from Yemen's warring sides sat in the same room in Sweden as UN-sponsored peace talks for the war-torn Arab country got under way.

A previous attempt to bring the two sides to Geneva in September failed after the Houthis accused government forces of preventing their plane from taking off.

The arrival of the Houthis followed two major confidence-boosting gestures - a prisoner swap deal and the evacuation of 50 wounded insurgents from the Houthi-held capital for treatment in neutral Oman.

Meanwhile, a United Nations source told Reuters that the former Saudi-backed regime had also confirmed that it would follow the Houthis to the Sweden peace talks.

However, Yemeni Minister of Information Daifallah al-Shami said that the Houthis had not received any official invitation for the UN-mediated peace talks in Sweden.

"This is one step in the right direction towards the building of mutual trust among Yemeni communities", ICRC spokeswoman Mirella Hodeib said.

"If the consultations proceed positively, we will see an immediate change for people in Yemen".

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

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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.

"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.

The UN food agency said it was planning to scale up food distribution rapidly to help another four million people in Yemen over the next two months, more than a 50 per cent rise on the number now reached.

Global outrage over the October 2 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's Istanbul consulate has refocused attention on the Yemen war and scrutiny over Saudi Arabia's activities in the region.

The coalition has largely suspended its offensive on the port of Hodeida in the face of US-led calls for a ceasefire and new peace talks.

The conflict began with the Houthi takeover of the capital, Sanaa, and much of northern Yemen in 2014.

"A stable state, important for the region, can not coexist with unlawful militias", Gargash said.

The resolution demands that the rebels recognize the legitimacy of Hadi's government and withdraw from all towns and cities they had taken, including Sanaa.

Any power-sharing agreement, or even tentative transitional government, would have to contend with Yemen's convoluted political and military constitution.

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