Members of a Yemeni rebel delegation prepare to fly accompanied by a UN peace envoy, heading for high-stakes talks in Sweden with the government aimed at ending the countrys devastating war. AFP photo
STOCKHOLM: Yemeni government representatives were expected to join a rebel delegation in Sweden Wednesday for high-stakes peace talks aimed at ending four years of devastating war.
A 12-member team from the Saudi-backed government headed by Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani left Riyadh early Wednesday, sources told AFP, a day after rebel delegates landed in Stockholm accompanied by the UN peace envoy.
The first Yemen talks since 2016 are widely seen as the best chance yet for peace, as the international community throws its weight behind resolving the devastating conflict that has pushed the Arab worlds poorest country to the brink of famine.
The government delegation was carrying the hopes of the Yemeni people to achieve sustainable peace, the head of exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadis office, Abdullah al-Alimi, said in a tweet.
The delegation had delayed its departure until the rebels had arrived in Stockholm after they failed to show up for the last UN bid to convene peace talks in September, complaining they had received insufficient guarantees of safe passage through the ade enforced by a Saudi-led coalition since March 2015, sources close to the government told AFP.
The rebels flew in on a Kuwaiti plane from Sanaa on Tuesday accompanied by UN envoy Martin Griffiths, who had promised to travel with them to allay their concerns.
Their arrival followed two major confidence boosts a prisoner swap deal and the evacuation of 50 wounded insurgents from the rebel-held capital for treatment in neutral Oman.
The US State Department hailed the peace talks in Sweden as a necessary and vital first step and called on all parties to cease any ongoing hostilities.
The United Arab Emirates, another key backer of the Yemeni government, said the planned talks offered a critical opportunity to bring peace to a country in the grip of what the UN has described as the worlds worst humanitarian crisis.
Although no date has been announced for the start of the negotiations, Yemeni government sources said they could begin as early as Thursday.
The head of the 12-member rebel delegation, Mohammed Abdelsalam, said it would spare no effort to make a success of the talks to restore peace and end the aggression.
At the same time, he called on rebel fighters to remain vigilant against any attempt at a military escalation on the ground.
The announcement of a deal on Tuesday to swap hundreds of detainees was hailed by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which will oversee the exchange after the first round of talks in Sweden, as one step in the right direction towards the building of mutual trust.
The agreement, struck by the UN envoy in weeks of shuttle diplomacy, came after the wounded rebels were flown out for treatment on Monday meeting a key rebel precondition for joining the talks. AFP
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