The War in Yemen: 'Watershed' peace talks underway in Sweden

Yemen Peace Talks To Begin Today In Sweden, Says UN

The Latest: Yemen's warring sides agree on prisoner exchange

Yemen's government and Huthi rebels began talks in Sweden on Thursday aimed at ending almost four years of war that have pushed the impoverished Arab country to the brink of mass starvation. "This is not a country on the brink of a catastrophe".

The talks in Rimbo, Sweden - a picturesque village some 60 km north of Stockholm - have been months in the making, the first time in two years warring parties sit down together in a almost four-year war.

The talks, in the picturesque Swedish village of Rimbo north of Stockholm, where the two sides have to eat in the same cafeteria, are slated to run for one week.

The war, widely seen across the region as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been stalemated for years, threatening supply lines to feed almost 30-million inhabitants.

The UN has identified conflict as the "root cause" of Yemen's crises.

Sanaa worldwide airport, located in the rebel-held capital, has been largely shut down for years.

The Saudi-led military coalition, which includes troops trained by the United States and UAE, has for months led an offensive to retake Hodeida. Fourteen million people face starvation, according to the UN. The food supply is in many places broken. Yemen hosts more than 255,000 Somali refugees, according to UNHCR.

World Food Program spokesman Herve Verhoosel said the "ambitious undertaking" finalizes plans in the works in recent months to reach 12 million people with food and nutritional supplements through January, up from between 7-8 million now. Saudi Arabia has come under heavy US pressure since the killing of Khashoggi, and the Houthis are under intense financial strain. The US routinely uses drones to target al-Qaida leadership.

"Yemen today is a living hell for millions of children. there is only one message to those who are gathering today in Sweden".

Some Yemeni voices on both sides fired off last-minute demands, sniping commentary and finger-pointing, while combat continued on the ground in some areas. But neither side appears ready to compromise.

The meeting marks the first attempt in two years to broker an end to the Yemen conflict, which has killed at least 10,000 people since Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government's fight against the rebels in 2015.

"Now it is up to you, the Yemini parties", she said.

"During the coming days we will have a critical opportunity to give momentum to the peace process", Griffiths told reporters as the rival delegations gathered in Sweden.

The agenda features topics such as the opening of Sanaa airport, lifting the Houthi-imposed siege on Yemen's southwestern city of Taiz and fine tuning the details of the prisoner swap deal.

For its part, the Saudi-backed government said the Houthi rebels would have to leave Hodeidah before it would agree to the port being handed over to United Nations administration.

The other main route in and out of Houthi territory is the Sanaa airport, but access is restricted by the Saudi-led coalition which controls the air space.

The civil war in Yemen has the most serious humanitarian crisis in the world. Worldwide pressure has mounted for the two sides to end the conflict. The coalition called the attack "a mistake".

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