Yemen rebels head to Sweden for key peace talks

Yemen war: Wounded Houthis rebels to be evacuated

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.

Prospects for convening talks have risen as Western allies press Saudi Arabia, leader of the Sunni Muslim alliance battling the Iranian-aligned Houthis, over a war that has killed more than 10,000 people and pushed Yemen to the brink of starvation. Previous talks in September collapsed when the Houthis failed to show up.

The UN has been trying to revive talks between the government led by President Abdrabbuh Mansour and the Iranian-backed Houthis who control much of the north.

Outrage over the October 2 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has intensified worldwide scrutiny of Saudi activities in the region, potentially giving Western powers, which provide arms and intelligence to the coalition, more leverage to demand action.

The agreement, struck by the United Nations envoy in weeks of shuttle diplomacy, came after the wounded Houthis were flown out for treatment on Monday, meeting a key Houthi precondition for joining the talks.

Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that escalated in early 2015, when the Houthis seized control of much of the west of the country and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee overseas.

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.

Yemen war: Wounded Houthis rebels to be evacuated
Yemen talks set to start in Sweden after wounded Houthis evacuated

A coalition-backed government offensive on the rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida has threatened to cut virtually the only gateway for UN-supervised aid.

"A sustainable Yemeni led political solution offers the best chance to ending the current crisis. A stable state, important for the region, can not coexist with unlawful militias".

"Iran welcomes the talks in Sweden ..."

This would serve as a foundation for a wider ceasefire that would halt coalition air strikes that have killed thousands of civilians and Houthi missile attacks on Saudi cities.

Pressure to bring the war in Yemen to an end has risen in recent months amid a worsening humanitarian crisis that has resulted in the deaths of some 85,000 children due to malnutrition, according to Save the Children.

Twenty-nine million civilians are in need of humanitarian aid while 14 million are at risk of starvation as a result of the war and subsequent sieges which the Saudi-led coalition has imposed on a number of cities in an effort to starve and fore Houthi fighters out of them. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, which tracks violence in Yemen, puts it at around 57,000 people. "This is a country that is in a catastrophe", the head of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, said.

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