Houthi rebels arrive in Sweden for Yemen peace talks

Yemen war: Wounded Houthis rebels to be evacuated

Previous talks planned for September in Geneva failed when the Houthi delegation did not leave Sana'a, arguing that the United Nations could not guarantee their safe return.

Iran offered support on Monday to the planned UN-brokered peace talks on Yemen, calling for an end to "the brutal aggression" on the country.

"The (UN special envoy) would like to announce the restart of the intra-Yemeni political process in Sweden on 6 December 2018", UN envoy Martin Griffiths' office tweeted.

A government team, headed by Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani, was expected in Sweden on Wednesday.

At the same time, he called on Houthi insurgents to remain "vigilant against any attempt at a military escalation on the ground".

The evacuation of the wounded fighters has been a key condition of the Houthis to attend the upcoming round of talks.

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 in the prisoner swap.

United Nations aid chief Mark Lowcock warned last week that Yemen was "on the brink of a major catastrophe", following a trip to the war-wracked country.

Since the coalition intervened in 2015, Yemen has become the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the UN.

Yemen war: Wounded Houthis rebels to be evacuated
Yemen talks set to start in Sweden after wounded Houthis evacuated

The peace talks may start on Wednesday, two sources familiar with the matter said. Three-quarters of impoverished Yemen's population, or 22 million people, require aid.

If the negotiations show results, "it is possible that we could find by the second half of the year that the extreme edge could get taken off the suffering of those people who have no form of income", he said.

Twenty-nine million civilians are in need of humanitarian aid while 14 million are at risk of starvation as a result of the war and subsequent sieges which the Saudi-led coalition has imposed on a number of cities in an effort to starve and fore Houthi fighters out of them.

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

"Yemen needs an immediate cease-fire and concrete steps to restore public services", it said in a statement.

Joost Hiltermann, the MENA programme director at the International Crisis Group, said Griffiths should aim to get an agreement during the negotiations to stave off a Saudi-led coalition offensive on the critical Yemeni port city of Hodeidah.

Residents in the port of Hodeidah, now a focus of the war, were fearful of renewed fighting if the talks failed as each side fortified their positions in the Houthi-held Red Sea city after a period of reduced hostilities.

Outrage over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has increased scrutiny of Riyadh's activities in the region, potentially giving Western powers, which provide arms and intelligence to the coalition greater leverage to demand action.

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