Houthis head to Yemen peace talks in Sweden

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

On Tuesday, Sweden's foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, described the peace talks as "an urgent step towards ending the conflict" in Yemen.

Martin Griffiths, the United Nations special envoy, started shuttling between Houthi rebels and representatives of the Yemeni government, based in a castle just outside Stockholm on Thursday morning.

Kuwait's Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah told reporters that a Houthi delegation was now set to leave Sanaa for Stockholm on Tuesday morning together with his country's ambassador to Yemen.

The last round of Yemeni peace consultations was held in Geneva in September.

The ICRC will oversee the exchange after the first round of talks in Sweden.

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"It's not much, but given the humanitarian situation and toxic political atmosphere now prevalent in Yemen, it's better than nothing".

Germany, Denmark and Sweden have suspended arms exports to Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi's killing and the Yemen war.

Rights groups fear the actual toll is far higher. "Every day people die in Yemen because of intense fighting, preventable diseases, hunger and extreme poverty".

"This is not a country on the brink of catastrophe. This is a country that is in a catastrophe".

Worldwide 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 U.S. has called for a cease-fire and reduced some of its logistical aid for the coalition.

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"All sides should enter constructive and responsible engagement to end the crisis in #Yemen", Zarif wrote.

Sources close to the rebels told AFP the Houthis are expected to request the reopening of Sanaa International Airport, which has been damaged by Saudi-led air raids and shut down by Riyadh and its allies, who control Yemen's airspace. Other armed groups taking part in the chaotic civil war, including southern separatists and local militias, will not be taking part in this week's talks. "But it remains to be seen whether the political will is really there to make the necessary concessions for peace". Saudi Arabia has come under heavy US pressure since the killing of Khashoggi, and the Houthis are under intense financial strain.

His comments came after renewed deadly clashes between Houthi rebels and pro-government forces in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, which is vital for the flow of humanitarian aid.

The Saudi-led Arab coalition to restore legitimacy in Yemen said that the plane had departed Sanaa after the legitimate government verified the identities of the injured amid previous reports that members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were among them. The target population includes three million women and children who need special support to prevent malnutrition, a spokesman said. And Hadi's administration is unlikely to agree to a power-sharing arrangement that would grant the Houthis a larger role in government, which was one of the original aims of the rebellion.

The United Arab Emirates, which is a key player in the coalition, said the evacuation of the wounded fighters showed its commitment to the talks in Sweden and the opportunity they provided. "They believe they have a powerful card there".

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