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UN-backed peace talks set to begin in Sweden to end Yemen war

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UN envoy Martin Griffiths, (centre) accompanied the Houthi delegation to Sweden

UN-sponsored peace talks aimed at ending nearly four years of civil war in Yemen are due to begin in Sweden.

A UN team will work alongside delegations from the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels at Johannesbergs castle outside Stockholm to enable informal talks due to last a week.

The war has caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in recent times.

Thousands of people have died in fighting and millions have been pushed to the brink of starvation.

Consultations are resuming for the first time since 2016. The last attempt at a negotiated peace collapsed in September when the Houthis failed to show up in Geneva.

What will happen?

The latest talks are not expected to deliver a breakthrough. Correspondents say the key aim of this round is to prevent an all-out battle for the rebel-held Red Sea port of Hudaydah where thousands of civilians are trapped.

The UN also hopes to come up with a framework for talks on what a future political solution in Yemen will look like.

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Officials said the talks – which are expected to last a week – would be informal, through working groups.

“On some issues it will make sense for the two sides to sit together, on others they will discuss in separate groups,” one source told the BBC.

Representatives of the internationally recognised government – which is backed by a Saudi-led military coalition – flew to Sweden on Wednesday. A day earlier, UN special envoy Martin Griffiths had accompanied the Iranian-backed Houthis to Stockholm.

Small steps towards peace

Analysis by BBC Chief Correspondent Lyse Doucet at the talks

So deep is distrust between warring sides that even showing up for talks for the first time in two years is a significant breakthrough and an achievement for UN envoy Martin Griffiths.

Confidence-building measures which made this happen, including a commitment from both sides to release hundreds of prisoners, have been called a “huge step”.

Stockholm is about small steps. There won’t be talk of ceasefires, even around the key port of Hudaydah, Yemen’s lifeline. The language is of de-escalation and restraint.

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The Saudi-led coalition and its Yemeni government allies still believe taking Hudaydah from the Houthis is the best way to bring an end to this war. Houthis aligned to Iran are digging in.

Mr Griffiths wants them to, at least, start talking about a different future, and start taking steps which can ease a dire humanitarian crisis. Yemen desperately needs to avert an even greater disaster. But the logic of war still prevails, and tragically so.

Source: bbc

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