Britain's top diplomat joins final day of Yemen peace talks

Britain's foreign secretary joined Yemen peace talks in Sweden on Thursday, as part of his efforts to help kick start a political process to bring an end to the country's brutal four-year civil war.

Jeremy Hunt's office said he would be in the Swedish town of Rimbo along with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres for the final day of this round of the U.N.-sponsored talks.

It says Hunt would also meet delegates from the warring sides — the internationally recognized Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels.

"Yemen is the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe, and these peace talks represent the best opportunity in years to move towards the political solution the people of Yemen urgently need," Hunt said ahead of his trip to Sweden, according to his office. "I applaud the historic strides the U.N. special envoy has already made in bringing the parties together for the first time since 2016."

A day earlier, the U.N. raised expectations for progress in the talks held in the town of Rimbo, Sweden, saying U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths had given both sides a draft agreement for consideration.

The document consists of a set of proposals, including one for a political framework for a post-war Yemen, the reopening of the airport in the capital, Sanaa, and a proposal for the contested Red Sea port city of Hodeida, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis dependent on international aid.

The talks are set to wrap up later in the day with a closing ceremony and a news conference.

The government, which is supported by a Saudi-led coalition that has waged war against the Iran-backed Shiite Houthis, said the next round of negotiations could take place as early as January.

The U.N. draft proposal was not released to the media. A draft document obtained by The Associated Press earlier this week showed an initial 16-point proposal to stop all fighting and have all troops withdraw to the city limits of the key port of Hodeida, and later from the surrounding province of the same name.

The war has pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine and created the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with 22 of Yemen's 29 million people in need of aid, according to the United Nations. The two opposing sides have for months been locked in a stalemated fight over Hodeida.

An international group tracking the war said this week that the conflict has killed more than 60,000 people, both combatants and civilians, since 2016.

Both sides have agreed at the talks to exchange more than 15,000 prisoners by Jan. 20.

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Rohan reported from Cairo. Associated Press writer Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.