Wounded Houthi rebels to be evacuated from Yemen ahead of peace talks in Sweden | News | DW | 03.12.2018
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Wounded Houthi rebels to be evacuated from Yemen ahead of peace talks in Sweden

The UN is pressing the coalition and Houthi rebels in Yemen to take confidence building measures ahead of planned peace talks. It is still unclear when, or whether, talks will take place in Sweden.

Fifty wounded Houthi rebels will be evacuated on a plane from Yemen's capital on Monday as a confidence building measure ahead of planned peace talks in Sweden, the Saudi-led military coalition said.

The UN chartered plane will take the rebels, three Yemeni doctors and a UN doctor from Sanaa to Muscat, Oman, for "humanitarian" reasons ahead of the talks sponsored by UN envoy Martin Griffiths, Saudi state media said.

Read more: Yemen's war explained in 4 key points

International pressure has been mounting to bring an end to the nearly four-year war that has devastated the Arab world's poorest country, killing more than 10,000 people and threatening 14 million people with famine.

The proposed peace talks between the Saudi-backed and internationally recognized government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels are scheduled to begin this week.

However, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said last week that due to "a number of setbacks," he hoped the talks would resume "this year."

The Yemeni government has said it would attend the talks, but the Houthis have said they would only attend if they were ensured a safe return to Yemen.

Long road to peace

In September, planned peace talks failed to start after the Houthi delegation refused to leave Yemen. The delegation said that the UN could not ensure that the Saudi-led military coalition, which controls the country's air and sea space, would allow it to return.

The failure to kick start talks led the military coalition to launch a renewed bid to take the rebel-held city of Hodeida. Much of the country's humanitarian aid enters through the city's Red Sea port.

Read more: UN chief: Destroying Yemen's Hodeida port would be 'catastrophic'

A previous round of failed peace talks in Kuwait in 2016 ended with the Houthi delegation being stranded in neighboring Oman for three-months.

Devastating quagmire

What started as largely a domestic political conflict in 2014 in the wake of the Arab Spring morphed into a broader regional power struggle between rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The 2015 military intervention started by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has since turned into an expensive and diplomatically damaging quagmire that has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

In November, International Crisis Group, a think tank, said the Saudi-led coalition had underestimated the Houthis.

"The Houthis are resourceful, committed, experienced and ruthless, and that the core fighters are likely to fight until the last man if called upon to do so," it said.

cw/amp (AFP, Reuters)

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