Yemen‘s warring parties have suggested they will attend the United Nations-sponsored peace talks in Sweden next week as efforts aimed at ending a conflict that has pushed millions to the edge of starvation gather pace.
A delegation of Yemen’s Saudi- and UAE-backed government will arrive in the city of Stockholm for the summit next week after Houthi counterparts show up first, the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television channel reported on Thursday.
The Al Arabiya report came hours after Britain’s ambassador to Yemen, Michael Aron, said the warring factions would attend the summit in Stockholm following discussions with their respective representatives.
“The Sweden consultations led by the UN envoy [Martin Griffiths] will take place next week … the political solution is the way to move forward,” Aron said on Twitter.
Hopes for the summit, which would be the first of its kind since 2016, appeared to be bolstered further by the head of the Houthi’s supreme revolutionary committee, who said on Thursday that the group’s delegation could attend the talks if their safe exit and return is guaranteed.
“I think that the national [Houthi] delegation will be in Sweden God willing on December 3 if guarantees remain to ensure they can depart and return,” Mohammed Ali al-Huthi posted on Twitter.
Huthi also called for “positive indications on the importance of peace from the other side”.
Fragile peace efforts
Thursday’s developments came two months after previous efforts to secure peace talks broke down in September, when Houthi representatives refused to attend a summit organised in the Swiss city of Geneva, saying the UN had failed to meet the group’s demands.
Since then, the conflict in Yemen has continued unabated, with Saudi Arabia and UAE-led forces launching an assault on the Red Sea coast city of Hodeidah, which is currently under Houthi control.
Aid groups have warned that the city, which serves as the entry point for most of Yemen’s commercial imports and vital aid supplies, is at risk of “obliteration” amid the ongoing fighting.
The UN, meanwhile, has expressed concern that an all-out attack on Hodeidah could lead to a famine in Yemen, where an estimated 8.4 million people are threatened with starvation.
The Houthis have agreed to hand over the management of the port itself to the UN, but the warring sides are at odds over who should control the city.
The ongoing conflict in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country and home to an estimated 28 million people, began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by Houthi rebels, who toppled the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Concerned by the rise of the Houthis, believed to be supported by Iran, a US-backed Saudi-UAE military coalition launched an intervention in 2015 through a massive air campaign aimed at reinstalling Hadi’s government.
According to the UN, at least 10,000 people have been killed since the coalition entered the conflict. The death toll has not been updated in years, however, and is likely to be far higher.