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Yemen's warring sides gather for peace talks in Sweden

Rimbo, Sweden — The UN's special envoy has appealed to Yemen's warring sides to "act now" for the future of the country, as representatives from the government and Houthi rebels gathered for UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden.

Why it matters: For only the second time in more than three years of war, officials from President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government and representatives from the Houthi rebel movement joined the talks aimed at discussing ways to end the fighting that has killed an estimated 56,000 people and left a staggering 22 million needing humanitarian assistance.

The UN special envoy is seeking to introduce a set of confidence-building measures at the talks in Rimbo, a town around 30 miles north of the Swedish capital Stockholm, that will eventually pave the way for future negotiations.

  • While the warring sides will not meet face-to-face, the confidence-building measures may include negotiating a ceasefire in the critical port city of Hodeidah, large-scale prisoner swaps, the reopening of Sanaa international airport and the payment of salaries to civil servants in Houthi-held areas.
  • But Yemen Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani gave little indication that he was going to offer concessions to his rivals. He rejected a Houthi proposal to form a presidential council without President Hadi as "nonsense".
  • Peter Salisbury, a Yemen analyst and consultant at the International Crisis Group, said the talks "appeared to be heading in the right direction,” but “the odds are in favor of a negative outcome.”

What’s next: “The best case scenario is a broad agreement on these confidence-building measures, this includes something positive on Hodeidah that will stave off the battle for the port and city, and an agreement to meet sometime later for future talks,” Salisbury says.

Go deeper: Read the full Al Jazeera report.

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