UNITED NATIONS The United Nations has helped evacuate injured Houthi rebels out of Yemen, a critical step aimed at getting the country’s warring sides to participate in upcoming peace talks this week.
The UN-chartered flight took off from the airport in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, at 6 pm local time Monday carrying 50 wounded rebels, their escorts and a team of doctors, a security source at Sanaa International Airport told AFP news agency.
A Houthi spokesman said the plane landed in Oman’s capital, Muscat, later on Monday evening, according to Reuters.
The wounded rebels were evacuated in what was a “confidence-building measure” aimed at securing negotiations between the Houthis and a Saudi-led coalition currently fighting in Yemen, a UN source told AFP.
Saudi Arabia launched a military offensive in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis took over the capital and ousted the country’s Saudi-backed president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
The UN has spearheaded a recent push to hold peace talks between Yemen’s warring sides as it sought to stave off a coalition offensive on the Houthi-held port city of Hodeidah, a key point through which humanitarian aid enters the country.
The negotiations are expected to begin as early as Wednesday in Sweden, sources told Reuters news agency.
Houthi leaders have said they hope to attend the talks, but they have insisted on guarantees that their members would be able to safely leave and return to Yemen, and for their wounded to receive medical treatment abroad. The group had also asked to travel on a plane not inspected by the Saudi-led coalition.
A previous attempt to get both sides to the negotiating table faiiled in September after the Houthis failed to show up.
Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary, welcomed the evacuation of the Houthis on Monday, describing the move as “a positive first step”.
“Encouraging to see some of the practical steps I discussed with Iranian, UAE & Saudi leaders on recent trips come to pass,” he wrote on Twitter.
Adam Baron, a Yemen analyst and visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the evacuations were “significant”.
“This was one of the biggest hurdles to the Sweden talks commencing,” he tweeted.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.