Yemen peace talks underway in Sweden
Representatives of Yemen’s government, the UN special envoy Martin Griffiths and members of the Houthi rebel militia will participate in the talks, which are set in the town of Rimbo, north of Stockholm.
The Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran, have been locked in a power struggle with the Saudi-backed Yemeni government since late 2014, when the rebels took hold of the capital Sanaa.
Direct talks took place previously in 2015 and 2016, but both attempts were unsuccessful. Griffiths had attempted to bring the two sides together for UN-sponsored talks in Geneva in September of this year, but the rebels failed to appear.
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Among the reasons were disagreements between Saudi Arabia and Iran over staging a ceasefire, Houthi refusals to surrender major cities and the rebel’s capturing of a military base north of Sanaa.
Sweden’s foreign minister Margot Wallstrom opened the talks with a press conference, where she wished both sides the strength to find “compromise and courage” on the difficult task ahead.
Griffiths joined her at the presser and said that the talks represented “a milestone.”
“During the coming days we will have a critical opportunity to give momentum to the peace process,” the UN special envoy said.
UN officials have lowered expectations ahead of the talks, but they hope that minor steps can be achieved to address Yemen’s worsening humanitarian crisis.