Published: Thu, December 06, 2018

Saudi Coalition to Allow Evacuation of Injured Houthis From Yemen

Saudi Coalition to Allow Evacuation of Injured Houthis From Yemen

The talks mark the first meeting between Yemen's legitimate government and Houthi militants, backed by Iran, since 2016, when 106 days of negotiations yielded no breakthrough in a war that has pushed 14 million people to the brink of starvation.

The departure of the 12-member delegation headed by Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani followed the arrival in Sweden of the rebel negotiating team.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told CBC News an arms deal signed with Saudi Arabia by the Conservative government that preceded him in Ottawa "makes it very hard to suspend or leave that contract", without offering a lot of specifics.

The Saudi-led coalition said it approved evacuating wounded Houthi fighters for treatment on Monday, meeting a key condition for the group to attend United Nations -sponsored peace talks in Sweden this week aimed at ending Yemen's almost four-year-old war.

"Iran welcomes the talks in Sweden ..."

"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.

The almost four-year-old conflict, which has killed thousands and spawned the world's most urgent humanitarian crisis, pits the Iranian-aligned Houthis against other Yemeni forces backed by a coalition loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Yemen war: Wounded Houthis rebels to be evacuated

Previous talks in Geneva in September had collapsed after three days when the Houthis failed to show up.

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

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 toward the building of mutual trust".

The deal was struck by Griffiths, who was in the rebel-held capital Sanaa for meetings already buoyed by the evacuation of the wounded insurgents - a key rebel precondition for the talks.

Overall, 24 million people in Yemen, roughly 75% of the population, will need humanitarian assistance in 2019, United Nations humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told reporters in Geneva.

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. "This is a country that is in a catastrophe", the head of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, said.

The coalition said in a statement it had agreed on the evacuation "for humanitarian considerations and as part of confidence-building measures" ahead of the talks, which are also due to focus on a transitional governing body.


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