Sweden talks 'critical opportunity' for Yemen peace: UAE

Pauline Gross
December 7, 2018

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.

The Saudi-backed government has said it would follow the Houthis to the talks, the first since 2016.

The developments were believed to have paved the way for the start of previously scheduled UN-brokered peace talks between the warring parties in Sweden later this month.

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.

The Huthi rebels arrived on a Kuwaiti plane from Sanaa following a prisoner swap deal and the evacuation of 50 wounded insurgents for treatment in Oman in a major boost to peace efforts.

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

Peace talks between the Yemeni government and rebels, aimed at ending four years of war that has pushed 14 million people to the brink of starvation, were due to open Thursday in Sweden.

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

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Tuesday that the Sweden talks are a "critical opportunity".

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Yemeni government official Hadi Haig told AFP that between 1,500 and 2,000 members of pro-government forces and between 1,000 and 1,500 rebels would be released.

Sweden's foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, opened the talks at a castle in Rimbo, a town north of Stockholm, wishing the Yemen adversaries strength to find "compromise and courage" as they embark on the hard task ahead.

"We express hope that the implementation phase of this agreement will proceed smoothly".

Meanwhile, the United Nations food agency said it is planning to rapidly scale up food distribution to help another four million people in Yemen over the next two months, more than a 50% increase in the number reached now - if access can be maintained in the poor, war-stricken country.

The mounting humanitarian needs, and outrage over the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, have galvanized worldwide support for ending the war. The US Senate is set to consider a resolution to end support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

But fresh fighting flared on Monday and the coalition spokesman said military operations were "ongoing".

The oil-rich Gulf emirate, which has been a mediator in the devastating conflict, hosted Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom for talks in Kuwait City on Monday.

Yemen collapsed into crisis, creating mass food shortages and near economic bankruptcy when Houthi rebels captured Sana'a in 2015.

But the Houthis are unlikely to agree to withdraw from territory or to lay down their arms, as the Yemeni government has demanded repeatedly.

Other reports by GizPress

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