Yemen's Houthis say they hope to attend peace talks next week in Sweden

#YemenWar

UN has been pushing for warring sides in Yemen to agree to peace negotiations to end devastating conflict

Houthis want guarantees their members will be able to leave and return to Yemen (AFP/File photo)
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Friday 30 November 2018 12:05 UTC
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Yemen's Houthi rebels said they will attend UN-brokered peace negotiations next week in Sweden, as one of the group's leaders reiterated an earlier demand for guarantees that the Houthis will be able to leave and return to Yemen.

"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-Houthi said on Twitter.

The head of the group's Higher Revolutionary Committee, al-Houthi said there should also be "positive indications on the importance of peace from the other side".

The comments mark the first time a specific date has been revealed for the negotiations, as the UN has been pushing for Yemen's warring sides to come to the table to broker a deal to end the ongoing conflict, which has left millions of Yemenis on the brink of starvation.

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The last attempt to convene talks in September collapsed after the Houthis asked for guarantees that their plane would not be inspected and for some of their wounded to be evacuated to Oman.

On Thursday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the international body was working hard to arrange "meaningful" peace talks before the end of the year.

A day earlier, Guterres said he was willing to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at a G20 summit in Argentina in order to discuss the way forward in Yemen.

Bin Salman, known as MBS, was the driving force behind Saudi Arabia's intervention in Yemen in 2015.

A Saudi-led coalition, which includes the United Arab Emirates, launched its military offensive in Yemen after the Houthis took over the capital, Sanaa, and ousted Yemen's internationally recognised - and Saudi-backed - president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

On Thursday, pro-Saudi Al-Arabiya television said a delegation representing Hadi's government would arrive in Sweden after the Houthi delegation, Reuters reported.

The Houthis' top political leader, Mahdi al-Mashat, also confirmed in a statement published by the rebels' news agency that the group's negotiating team was ready to head to Sweden.

He called for a reduction in hostilities ahead of the talks and said the Houthis were exercising "high levels of self-restraint".

Irma van Deuren, the Dutch ambassador to Yemen, said on Twitter that she was looking forward to "constructive peace consultations for #Yemen next week in Sweden".

The international push for peace negotiations comes amid growing concern over fighting in the critical Yemeni port city of Hodeidah.

The UN's envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, was in the city last week to urge the warring sides to agree to attend the peace talks and allow the UN to take control of the port, a crucial gateway for humanitarian aid entering the country.

It also comes as the US Senate agreed to move ahead with a resolution that seeks to end Washington's support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

US senators voted 63-37 on Wednesday afternoon to move forward with the resolution, in defiance of pressure from President Donald Trump's administration, which has vowed to remain a steadfast partner to Saudi Arabia.