Yemeni government, Houthis sign prisoner swap deal

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

Sweden talks critical opportunity for Yemen peace

U.N. Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths has been conducting intensive rounds of shuttle diplomacy to persuade the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government of Yemeni president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi to meet for serious negotiations in a bid to wind down the brutal war that has killed tens of thousands, collapsed the economy and left millions on the brink of starvation.

No exact date has been announced yet for the start of the first peace talks on Yemen since 2016.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, has said that the talks are not likely to be easy or quick.

The 12 officials will be headed by Foreign Minister Khaled Al Yamani, and will hope to negotiate an end to Yemen's deteriorating humanitarian situation.

The Yemeni government previously said it would wait for the Houthi delegation to leave Sanaa for Sweden before travelling to the peace talks themselves.

The Saudi-led coalition went to war with the rebels the following March.

The group has agreed to travel on a plane provided by Kuwait, a source familiar with the talks said.

According to United Nations and Yemeni sources, the reopening of Sanaa worldwide airport, which has been under coalition blockade, is among the confidence-building measures up for discussion in Sweden.

"All efforts will be exerted to ensure the success of the talks that are considered as a real chance for peace", Al-Alimy noted.

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Hadi's government is expected to follow the Houthis, whose attendance was secured after the evacuation of 50 wounded Houthis for treatment in Oman on Monday.

The United States welcomed the prospect of peace talks on Tuesday, less than a week after USA senators moved forward with a historic resolution to halt Washington's support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

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.

Western allies, which provide arms and intelligence to the coalition, have ramped up pressure on them to find a way to end a conflict that killed tens of thousands of people and left more than 8 million facing starvation.

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.

The Saudi-led alliance intervened in the civil war in 2015 after the Houthi movement ousted Hadi's government from the Yemeni capital Sanaa in 2014, but has faced military stalemate since seizing the southern port of Aden.

Global outrage over the October 2 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's Istanbul consulate has refocused attention on the Yemen war and scrutiny over Saudi Arabia's activities in the region. "A stable state, important for the region, can not coexist with unlawful militias".

"UN Security Council Resolution 2216 offers a workable road map".

The demands are unacceptable to the rebels and subsequent global peace efforts, including three months of negotiations in Kuwait that broke down in 2016, have focused on a power-sharing government and a federal political system.

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