Sweden says it could host Yemen's warring sides for talks

Sweden could host talks between Yemen's warring parties after efforts by the U.N. special envoy failed to bring the sides together, the Swedish foreign minister said Wednesday.

Margot Wallstrom said the United Nations has asked Sweden if it "could be a place for the U.N. envoy to gather the parties in this conflict" — the internationally recognized government, supported by a Saudi-led coalition, and Yemen's Iran-backed Shiite rebels known as Houthis.

Wallstrom told Sweden's news agency TT Sweden would be "happy about it" but that nothing is definite.

"We have always supported (U.N. envoy) Martin Griffiths, both in the United Nations and in the EU," she said.

The conflict in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by the Houthis who toppled the internationally recognized government. A Saudi-led coalition allied with the government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.

The war has killed over 10,000 people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

"This is currently the biggest humanitarian crisis we have in the world," Wallstrom told TT.

At the beginning of 2017, the U.N. and its partners provided aid to 3 million hungry Yemenis. Since then, assistance has been scaled up, reaching 8 million people last month because of generous funding from donors, but far below the 14 million people — or half Yemen's population — who may need it.

Earlier this month, Mark Lowcock, the U.N. humanitarian chief, warned of "an imminent and great big famine engulfing Yemen."

"The situation is now much graver" than earlier thought because "of the sheer number of people at risk," he told the Security Council, warning that Yemen's famine could be "much bigger than anything any professional in this field has seen during their working lives."