A delegation from Yemen’s former Saudi-sponsored government has left Riyadh for Sweden to attend UN-brokered peace talks with representatives from the Houthi Ansarullah movement as a push by the world body to end a devastating Saudi-led war on Yemen gains steam.
The 12-member team headed by ex-foreign minister Khaled al-Yamani departed the Saudi capital Riyadh early Wednesday, a day after the Houthi delegation, accompanied by UN peace envoy Martin Griffiths, landed in Stockholm.
The delegation represents the government of ex-Yemeni president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
The push gained momentum due to a global outrage directed at the Saudi regime over the gruesome assassination in early October of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which is being widely blamed on the architect of the Yemen war, Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman.
Under growing international pressure, Riyadh and its allies ultimately submitted to Ansarullah’s demands and returned to the negotiating table for the first time since 2016 in the hope of finding a way out of the war, which has failed to achieve its objectives of reinstalling Hadi and undermining the Houthi movement.
Hadi had resigned as Yemen’s president and fled to Riyadh months before the Saudi war began. In the absence of an effective government, Ansarullah has been both running state affairs and defending the country against the Saudi-led aggression.
The Houthis’ arrival in Sweden followed two major confidence boosting measures — a prisoner swap deal and the transfer of 50 wounded Houthi fighters from Sana’a to Oman for treatment.
Yemen’s Houthi movement says it has reached a UN-backed prisoner exchange agreement with the Saudi-led coalition and allied militants ahead of the upcoming peace talks in Sweden.
On Tuesday, Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the spokesman and chief negotiator for the Ansarullah movement, wrote on his official Twitter page that the Houthis “will spare no effort to make a success of the talks to restore peace and end the aggression.”
At the same time, Ansarullah officials called on Houthi fighters to remain “vigilant against any attempt at a military escalation on the ground.”
Meanwhile, Britain has presented a draft UN Security Council resolution on Yemen, and called on the parties involved to restart peace negotiations.
The draft sets a two-week deadline for the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi fighters to remove all barriers to humanitarian aid, halt attacks on civilian areas and allow unhindered access to the strategic port city of Hudaydah.
The United States, however, said a vote on the measure should be put on hold until negotiations are held in Sweden.
Washington and London have been two major sponsors of the Riyadh-led war, which is estimated to have left 56,000 Yemenis dead.
The Saudi-led offensive, coupled with a naval blockade, has destroyed Yemen’s infrastructure and led to famine in the import-dependent state.
About 8.4 million Yemenis are now facing starvation. The number is likely to increase to 14 million.
Back in June, the Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive on the port city of Hudaydah despite international warnings that it would compound the war-torn nation’s humanitarian crisis.
The aggressors have, however, failed to seize the strategic Red Sea port city in the face of stiff resistance from Yemeni armed forces, led by the Houthi Ansarullah movement.