Houthis head to Yemen peace talks in Sweden

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

Sweden talks critical opportunity for Yemen peace

The UN Yemen envoy sought Tuesday to press forward planned peace talks in Sweden as a key backer of the beleaguered government said they offered a "critical opportunity" to end almost four years of war. The talks are yet to be announced.

The US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: "We have no illusions, and we know that this process will not be easy, but we welcome this first necessary and vital step".

"Now is the time for Yemenis to replace conflict with reconciliation and work together to realize a brighter future for Yemen".

Officials representing Yemen's Saudi-backed government, headed by ousted President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, are due to arrive on Wednesday, the news agency said.

'We will spare no effort to make the consultations succeed, to bring peace, end the war of aggression and lift the siege.

"We hope now that the U.N. -led consultations can begin later this week,"Sweden's deputy U.N. Ambassador Carl Skau told reporters in NY".

His arrival coincided with the evacuation of a number of wounded Houthis from the capital to Muscat, Oman.

The last attempt to hold Yemen peace talks failed in September after the Houthi delegation didn't show up.

Yemeni government official Hadi Haig said between 1,500 and 2,000 pro-government personnel and between 1,000 and 1,500 rebels would be released.

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.

Rebel official Abdel Kader al-Murtadha confirmed the deal, adding he hoped it would be "implemented without problem".

The crisis in Yemen spiralled after a Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive to support the government against Iran-backed Huthi rebels in March of 2015.

Murtaza also noted that the agreement marks the first step towards resolving the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

The rebels had said they would attend the talks in Sweden if they were guaranteed safe passage and the evacuations.

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.

The first Yemen talks since 2016 are widely seen as the best chance yet for peace, as the worldwide community throws its weight behind resolving the devastating conflict that has pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of starvation. "This is a country that is in a catastrophe", the head of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, said.

A United Nations commercial plane would land in the Houthi-held capital Sanaa on Monday to transport them to Oman, along with three doctors, he said in a statement.

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

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

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