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The Latest: US welcomes progress from Yemen peace talks

Martin Griffith, Special Envoy for Yemen of the U.N. Secretary General, attends a press conference at Johannesberg Palace, north of Stockholm on Monday Dec. 10, 2018. Yemen's warring parties are meeting for a fifth day of talks in Sweden aimed at halting the country's catastrophic 4-year-old war. (Stina Stjernkvist/TT via AP)

RIMBO, Sweden (AP) — The Latest on the U.N.-sponsored Yemen peace talks that are wrapping up in Sweden (all times local):

11:30 p.m.

The Trump administration is welcoming progress made at peace talks between the warring parties in Yemen.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says agreements for a ceasefire in the contested port of Hodeidah, a prisoner exchange and the opening of humanitarian corridors are a “pivotal first step” in ending the devastating conflict. Pompeo’s statement came after the United Nations announced the steps after the talks in Sweden concluded on Thursday.

Pompeo said all parties must continue to de-escalate tensions and expand the truce.

The talks ended shortly before the Senate dealt the administration a symbolic rebuke by voting to recommend an end to U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition that has been battling the Iran-backed Yemeni rebels.

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7:55 p.m.

The United Nations says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres feels his talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi helped achieve the cease-fire agreement in the province of Hodeida where the country’s key port to import desperately needed food is located.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York Thursday that Guterres felt the Saudi crown prince’s contribution “was very important to the outcome of the consultations” and that Hadi “played a positive role.”

The secretary-general thanks those inside and outside the region that tried to encourage the parties to make progress at the talks in Sweden and believes this was “valuable” in reaching Thursday’s agreement, Haq said.

He said U.N. special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, who led the talks, and U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, will brief the U.N. Security Council Friday on the outcome.

Haq said certain aspects of the agreement, including U.N. monitoring of the port of Hodeida, “might need Security Council approval” which would require a new resolution.

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5:40 p.m.

The World Food Program has welcomed the cease-fire announced for Yemen’s key port city of Hodeida, saying it offers hope to the millions of Yemenis left starving as a result of the four-year civil war.

WFP Executive Director David Beasley said in a Thursday statement that “any progress toward peace is good progress, as long as it helps the Yemeni people who have suffered so much in this conflict.”

Noting that Yemen imports nearly all its food and about 70 percent of that goes through Hodeida’s port, he added that “what all of Yemen needs the most, though, is a permanent, lasting and full peace.”

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1:55 p.m.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom has lauded the “positive spirit” of the peace talks aimed at setting out a framework for future dialogue in war-ravaged Yemen.

“It takes concessions, it takes compromises and it takes some courage to get these discussions going and get good results in the end,” Wallstrom said Thursday at the closing of the weeklong talks.

The talks, held in the in the Swedish town of Rimbo, north of Stockholm, led to a deal with Yemen’s warring sides, saying they have agreed to a province-wide cease-fire in Hodeida and a withdrawal of troops from the contested Red Sea port city.

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1:20 p.m.

The United Nations secretary general says Yemen’s warring sides have agreed after week-long peace talks in Sweden to a province-wide cease-fire in Hodeida and a withdrawal of troops from the contested Red Sea port city.

Antonio Guterres thanked the Yemeni delegations for what he called “an important step” and “real progress toward future talks to end the conflict.”

He spoke on Thursday at the closing ceremony for the talks in the Swedish town of Rimbo. A press conference is about to follow.

Guterres said to the Yemeni parties: “Thank you for coming here to discuss a better future for Yemen.”

He also said that the next round of talks is planned for the end of January.

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1 p.m.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres are the U.N.’s envoy for Yemen are about to brief reporters at the closing of a week of peace talks aimed at setting out a framework for future dialogue in war-ravaged Yemen.

The U.N.-sponsored talks, which end on Thursday, have low expectations for halting the conflict immediately, but have already seen some progress with the agreement of a prisoner swap to include some 15,000 people.

Both sides have said they sought to build on goodwill for future talks, although it was unclear how far they have come in agreeing on a draft agreement given to them a day earlier to consider by U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths, who has sought to remove the key port city of Hodeida from Yemen’s four-year civil war so that aid deliveries can operate freely.

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9:50 a.m.

Britain’s foreign secretary is joining the Yemen peace talks on their final day in Sweden as part of his efforts to help kick start a political process to bring an end to the impoverished Arab country’s brutal four-year civil war.

His office says Jeremy Hunt will be in the Swedish town of Rimbo along with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Thursday, the final day of the U.N.-sponsored Yemen talks.

It says Hunt will also be meeting the delegates from the warring sides — the internationally recognized Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels.

Hunt said ahead of his trip that “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.”

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