Yemen peace talks to start December 6 in Sweden

UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths is seen during his departure at Sanaa airport Yemen

The evacuation on a UN-chartered plane marks a key step forward in kickstarting stalled negotiations as world powers press for an end to the four-year conflict that has pushed Yemen to the brink of starvation.

While it backs Houthis fighting the internationally-recognised government, it is not clear what material support Tehran provides the rebels.

A United Nations source told Reuters news agency the two sides were unlikely to hold direct talks at a castle outside Stockholm and that United Nations envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths and his team would shuttle between them for the consultations.

The talks mark the first meeting between Yemen's legitimate government and Houthi militants, backed by Iran, since 2016, when 106 days of negotiations yielded no breakthrough in a war that has pushed 14 million people to the brink of starvation.

A source in the government delegation said President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's camp is seeking maps detailing landmines planted by the rebels.

A previous attempt by Griffiths to convene peace talks in Switzerland in September collapsed when rebels failed to show up, saying they had not received sufficient guarantees of safe passage through the crippling air and sea blockade that a Saudi-led coalition fighting alongside the government has enforced since March 2015.

The Houthis had required the travel before their delegation leaving for Sweden to participate in the peace talks.

The announcement of a deal on Tuesday to swap hundreds of detainees was hailed by the International Committee of the Red Cross as "one step in the right direction toward the building of mutual trust".

Yemeni scholar Hisham Al-Omeisy, who has written extensively about the conflict, said the talks would focus on "de-escalation and starting the political process".

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Yemeni government official Hadi Haig said between 1,500 and 2,000 pro-government personnel and between 1,000 and 1,500 Houthis would be released.

The departure of the 12-member delegation headed by Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani followed the arrival in Sweden of the rebel negotiating team.

The UN painted a bleak picture of the hunger crisis gripping the country, on Tuesday, warning that the number of people needing food aid was set to jump by four million.

The coalition has largely suspended its offensive on the port of Hodeida in the face of US-led calls for a ceasefire and new peace talks.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed his support for the talks in a tweet on Monday.

The mounting humanitarian needs, and outrage over the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, have galvanized global support for ending the war.

"A stable state, important for the region, can not coexist with unlawful militias", Gargash said.

The Houthis, who are more adept at guerrilla warfare, hold most population centers including Sanaa and the port city of Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions that is now a focus of the war.

The demands are unacceptable to the rebels and subsequent global peace efforts, including three months of negotiations in Kuwait that broke down in 2016, have focused on a power-sharing government and a federal political system.

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