After close to three years of fighting, the Sana’a government and the so-called Houthi rebels are due to meet face-to-face in Sweden. This is part of a UN-sponsored initiative; a first step towards finding a political solution to the conflict.On the table are options for a ceasefire in Hodeida and an end to the Saudi-UAE bombing campaign. The Houthis would be required to respond in kind. Already, a deal on prisoner swaps is said to be in the bag; under which some 2,000 pro-government forces will be exchanged for 1,500 Houthis. Yet pundits are united as they warn of the need to keep expectations modestly low. It is enough, they contend, that the two sides have agreed to sit down at the negotiating table. And even though the main orchestrators of the conflict — Saudi Arabia and Iran — will not be in attendance both sides reportedly back the peace talks. All of which signals reason to hope. Not least because of the recent spotlight on Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) in the wake of the Jamal Khashoggi murder. And while this has proved insufficient to make the Americans rethink lucrative arms sales to the Kingdom — an internationally weakened Riyadh may mean more flexibility when sealing the deal on conflict resolution. After all, there have been whisperings among Saudi experts of how MBS will retain his public position while more senior royals are quietly brought into the decision-making process. And given that Yemen is the Crown Prince’s war — many believe that the Kingdom’s support of the UN moot is a signal that this behind-the-scenes erosion of power is already underway.Yet when all is said and done, one major conundrum remains. This is linked to the deliberate terming of the Yemen battlefield as a civil war. When, in fact, the conflict has been internationalised from the start; with Donald Trump coming out in public support of the Saudis. This suggests that an outward looking solution will be required. Including an agreement by regional neighbours to let one of the poorest countries in the world begin to heal and rebuild. This is imperative. The UN has already warned that Yemen will top the list of those nations in most need of humanitarian assistance in 2019. Thus the window of opportunity to bring peace to the country is extremely narrow. Riyadh is biding its time until the Khashoggi furore dies down. But in the meanwhile, the world community is in damage control mode; having suddenly been awoken to the direct link between weapon sales to the Kingdom and the latter’s launching of more than 18,000 air raids on an already impoverished country. Ditto when it comes to UN estimates that put the Yemeni death toll at around 57,000 and four million displaced. All of which means that this is the best chance for the world body to flex its muscles. It may never be so empowered again. *Published in Daily Times, December 6th 2018.