Yemen’s peace talks to start in Sweden next week: British envoy

ADEN/DUBAI (Reuters) – U.N.-sponsored peace talks between Yemen’s warring parties are expected to start next week in Sweden, Britain’s envoy to Yemen said on Thursday, as Western allies press for an end to the war that has pushed the country to the verge of starvation.

The United Nations is trying to reconvene talks between the Saudi-backed government led by Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Iranian-aligned Houthi group to agree a framework for peace and a transitional governing body. A previous round in Geneva collapsed in September when the Houthis failed to show up.

“The Sweden consultations led by the U.N. envoy will take place next week. I have booked my trip and looking forward to seeing you leading your delegation, the political solution is the way to move forward,” Michael Aron, the Riyadh-based British ambassador to Yemen, tweeted to the Houthis’ spokesman Mohammed Abdusalam.

A member of Hadi’s delegation told Reuters on Wednesday that the talks were due to be held on Dec. 4, but that the date could change “depending on logistics”.

Western powers, which provide arms and intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition, are now pressing for an end to the conflict.

Martin Griffiths, the U.N. envoy to Yemen, visited the Houthi-held capital Sanaa this week where he met with the group’s leaders. The U.N. humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, arrived in Sanaa on Thursday.

A spokeswoman declined to give an exact date for the talks.

“Preparations are ongoing as planned and we hope the consultations will convene in early December,” she said.

The last U.N. attempt to convene the warring parties collapsed after the Houthis asked for guarantees from the U.N. that their plane would not be inspected. They also wanted to evacuate some of their wounded to Oman for treatment.

Saudi Arabia confirmed its willingness to evacuate 50 wounded Houthi fighters as a confidence-building measure, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Reuters this month.

The new peace efforts come as the war’s frontlines have seen a fragile de-escalation.

The Houthis said last week they were halting drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their Yemeni allies, responding to a demand from the United Nations.

However, the group’s Al Masirah TV said on Thursday the group fired a ballistic missile on the Saudi-bordering region of Najran.

The Saudi-led coalition halted its offensive on the port city of Hodeidah, although skirmishes continued on the outskirts.

Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari and Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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