Houthis head to Yemen peace talks in Sweden

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Houthis head to Yemen peace talks in Sweden

A delegation of Yemen's Houthi rebels left the capital Sana'a for Sweden on Tuesday, accompanied by the United Nations' special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, to take part in expected peace talks aimed at ending the almost four-year-long conflict.

"Evacuating wounded Houthi fighters from Sanaa once again demonstrates the Yemeni government & the Arab coalition's support for peace", Gargash said in a tweet.

Coalition spokesman Turki Al Maliki confirmed the United Nations chartered flight would evacuate 50 wounded combatants, 50 escorts and a team of Yemeni and United Nations doctors to the Omani capital.

He added that the team would make efforts for the success of the talks, which are a "real chance for peace".

Although no date has been announced for the start of the negotiations, Yemeni government sources say they could begin on Thursday.

However, the deal's implementation mechanism hinges on a final agreement expected to be struck during the Sweden peace talks.

Envoy Griffiths' last attempt to get the parties together in Geneva in September fell apart, when the Houthis skipped the talks.

A delegation from Yemen's internationally recognised government is expected to arrive in Sweden on Wednesday, a Yemeni official told The National.

"This is one step in the right direction towards the building of mutual trust among Yemeni communities", spokesperson Mirella Hodeib told AFP.

Thousands of prisoners have been captured by both sides in the grinding war of attrition that has devastated Yemen.

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

The arrival was confirmed by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom on Twitter.

The nearly four years of the Yemeni war have killed more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, displaced 3 million others, and pushed the country to the brink of starvation.

Yemen has been wracked by violence since 2014, when the Houthi rebel group overran much of the country and the crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.

Western powers, which provide arms and intelligence to the coalition, may have greater leverage to demand action on Yemen after outrage over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul increased scrutiny of the kingdom's activities in the region.

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

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

A British push for the UN Security Council to take action on the humanitarian crisis has slowed because several member states are wary of impeding the peace talks.

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

Talks initially broke down in 2016, when 108 days of negotiations in Kuwait failed to yield a deal and left rebel delegates stranded in Oman for three months.

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