Yemeni Houthi officials are expected to travel to Sweden shortly for talks as early as Wednesday to end the nearly four-year-old war after the Saudi-led coalition allowed the evacuation of some of their wounded for treatment.
U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths arrived in the Houthi-held capital Sanaa on Monday to escort the Houthi delegation, a U.N. source told Reuters. The Saudi-backed government has said it would follow the Houthis to the talks, the first since 2016.
The peace talks may start on Wednesday, two sources familiar with the matter said. Griffiths shuttled between the parties to salvage a previous round that collapsed in September after the Houthis failed to show up.
Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a member of the Houthi politburo, told Reuters their delegation would travel to Sweden Tuesday morning on a plane provided by Kuwait and accompanied by Griffiths.
A post on the U.N. envoy’s Twitter account thanked all parties for facilitating the evacuation of the 50 wounded fighters on Monday to Oman for treatment.
British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt tweeted that the evacuation as a “positive 1st step” ahead of the talks.
The coalition said in a statement it had agreed on the evacuation “for humanitarian considerations and as part of confidence-building measures” ahead of the talks, which are also due to focus on a transitional governing body.
Some 8.4 million Yemenis are facing starvation, although the United Nations has warned that will probably rise to 14 million. Three-quarters of impoverished Yemen’s population, or 22 million people, require aid.
The Arab alliance intervened in the war in 2015 to restore the internationally recognised government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The Houthis, who are more adept at guerrilla warfare, hold most population centres including Sanaa and the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions that is now the focus of the war.
Griffiths hopes to reach a deal on reopening Sanaa airport and securing a prisoner swap and a ceasefire in Hodeidah as a foundation for a wider ceasefire.