Representatives for the two warring factions in the three-year-old Yemeni Civil War began, for the first time since the conflict began, talk in Sweden as negotiators for the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government met with UN negotiator Martin Griffiths to discuss ways to bring about an end to hostilities in the war-ravaged nation.
Griffiths has been conducting intensive rounds of shuttle diplomacy to persuade both the Houthi insurgents and the Saudi-backed government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi to meet, particularly in the wake of a failed attempt to bring the two sides together in September after the Houthis refused to engage in negotiations.
No details about the negotiations have been made public by the United Nations, but the commonly-held belief going into the talks was that the UN wanted to use the first face-to-face contact as a confidence-building measure.
The talks come on the back of a UN-mediated prisoner swap deal and a humanitarian flight that peacefully carried 50 injured Houthis fighters from the Yemeni capital Sana’a to Muscat in Oman without hindrance from the Saudi Arabian-led coalition.
The ongoing civil war in Yemen is considered one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the world, with an estimated 8.4 million people on the brink of starvation. In 2016, the last official UN report said that the war had caused up to 10,000 civilian casualties, though recent NGO estimates indicated that the casualties now stand at just under 60,000.