UN chief urges Yemen sides to hold talks without pre-conditions

Yemen Peace Talks To Begin Today In Sweden, Says UN

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said the talks presented a "critical opportunity" but did not amount to negotiations on a full end to the conflict between the Iran-backed Huthi rebels and the rival government alliance led by Saudi Arabia.

Hopes were high that the talks wouldn't deteriorate into further violence as in the past, and that the prisoner exchange would be an important first step toward building confidence between highly distrustful adversaries.

The two warring sides have agreed to free more than 3,000 prisoners.

The talks in the Swedish town of Rimbo, north of Stockholm, aim to set up "a framework for negotiations" on a future peace agreement, Griffiths said, calling the coming days a milestone nonetheless and urging the parties "to work in good faith.to deliver a message of peace".

According to a statement released by the UN, Griffiths extended his appreciation to the Swedish government for hosting the "direct consultations" between the Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels and Saudi-led coalition backing the Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi government in Yemen.

There is new hope of ending the world's worst humanitarian crisis of recent times: the civil war in Yemen.

"It will allow thousands of families to be reunited, and it is [the] product of very effective, active work from both delegations", Mr Griffiths said.

The global Red Cross said it would oversee the prisoner exchange, which is expected to take weeks.

The Yemeni government also plans on requesting that the rebel Houthis relinquish their control over the port of city of Hodeida.

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Warring sides agree to release prisoners as Yemen peace talks begin

Saudi-led airstrikes against the rebels are compounding the misery - wiping out entire neighborhoods and destroying hospitals. The country serves as the operational base for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, dubbed the "most dangerous" terrorist group before the rise of the "Islamic State".

A United Nations source said that the two sides were still far from agreement on the three issues, especially on who should manage Hodeidah port and whether the Houthis should entirely quit the city.

They are slated to last for one week, according to a source in the UN.

Yemeni voices from both sides continued to make some last-minute demands and accusatory finger-pointing, while minor fighting continued to some extent on the ground. "We need equipment, they blocked our equipment, they blocked our access".

The UN food agency said it was planning to scale up food distribution rapidly to help another four million people in Yemen over the next two months, more than a 50 per cent rise on the number now reached.

The Houthi delegation arrived in Stockholm late Tuesday, accompanied by Griffiths.

"Now it is up to you, the Yemini parties", she said. "Every day people die in Yemen because of intense fighting, preventable diseases, hunger and extreme poverty".

The cycle of violence widened to include shelling and looting of a number of civilian houses in the directorate of al-Tahita in an escalation seen as a push by the Houthis to put the legitimate government and the Arab coalition in a hard position in front of the global community which is pressing to end the war in Yemen. Verhoosel said the rollout will require "safe, immediate and unimpeded access for food and other vital supplies".

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