Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Yemen's Houthis spokesman leaves Oman to attend Sweden peace talks

GettyImages-1067985544 Yemen peace talks in Sweden a ‘vital first step’ says Washington
Kenny Thornton | 07 December, 2018, 21:07

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki stated that a United Nations plane will arrive on Monday to the airport East of Sanaa to evacuate the wounded, along with 50 escorts, three Yemeni doctors and a United Nations doctor from Sanaa to Muscat.

Yemen's two main warring factions are meeting in Sweden today for the first time since peace talks broke down in 2016. "We will see fewer people hit by and fleeing violence, fewer people pushed to the most desperate means of staying alive", said Mohamed Abdi, Yemen country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council.

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.

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.

Rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdelsalam confirmed their departure on Twitter, saying the Huthis "will spare no effort to make a success of the talks to restore peace and end the aggression".

The announcement of a deal on Tuesday to swap hundreds of detainees was hailed by the International Committee of the Red Cross as "one step in the right direction towards the building of mutual trust".

Saudi Arabia and its allies also allowed the Houthis to evacuate 50 wounded rebels from Sanaa for medical treatment in Oman.

The tone from all sides appeared to be more positive than the last round of talks in Geneva, which failed to even bring the Houthis to the table.

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Yemeni government official Hadi Haig said between 1,500 and 2,000 members of pro-government forces and between 1,000 and 1,500 rebels would be released in the prisoner swap.

The government delegation was carrying the "hopes of the Yemeni people to achieve sustainable peace", the head of President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi's office, Abdullah Al-Alimi, said in a tweet.

Al-Murtaza added that his group were completing the deal's procedures.

Thousands of prisoners have been captured by both sides in the grinding war of attrition that has devastated Yemen at a cost of about 10,000 lives since the Saudi-led military intervention launched in March 2015.

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. Overall, 24 million people in Yemen - roughly 75 per cent of the population - will need humanitarian assistance in 2019.

"I've heard many say that this is a country on the brink of catastrophe", Beasley said.

World Food Programme chief David Beasley said in Geneva that an upcoming food security report would show an increase in severe hunger rates in Yemen - where a child dies every 11 minutes - but not necessarily meet the criteria of starvation.

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

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