A U. N. envoy accompanied the negotiating team for the first talks with the Saudi-led coalition since 2016. The war has killed an estimated 57,000 people.
CAIRO — A delegation of Houthi rebels flew from the capital of Yemen to Sweden on Tuesday, the biggest step toward peace in the country’s civil war since 2016.
Houthi officials said that preliminary consultations with a delegation from the Saudi-backed government led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, could begin as early as Wednesday.
The United Nations envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, was also aboard the Kuwaiti airliner that left Sana, the capital, on Tuesday, one day after 50 wounded Houthi fighters were allowed to fly to Oman for treatment as part of an elaborate sequence of confidence-building measures.
Mr. Griffiths offered to accompany the Houthis to overcome their fears that the Saudi-led coalition, which controls Yemeni airspace, might intercept the flight, a senior United Nations official said.
The plane carried international and Yemeni hopes for the fragile political process. On Oct. 30, amid growing concern at the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis set a 30-day deadline for a cease-fire in the conflict, which began in 2015, and for the start of peace talks.
Mr. Mattis got part of his wish on Tuesday. Fighting has raged in recent weeks in the Red Sea port of Hudaydah, which the Saudi-led coalition is trying to snatch from Houthi control, and which is key to international efforts to stave off a looming famine across Yemen.
The United Nations redoubled its warnings on Tuesday when its humanitarian coordinator, Mark Lowcock, appealed for $4 billion to deliver aid in Yemen, which he said is likely to remain the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis in 2019. The United Nations estimates that 57,000 people have died since the conflict started and that nearly four million people had been forced from their homes, including 600,000 displaced by the battle for Hudaydah.
Peace talks and external support could take the edge off extreme suffering, but that included “a lot of supposes,” Mr.

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