Yemen rebels, govt agree to swap over 1,000 prisoners

Houthi rebels will free 400 people, including 15 Saudis and four Sudanese, while the Saudi-led coalition will free 681 Houthi fighters, sources say.

UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths is trying to restart political negotiations to end the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and also caused the world's largest humanitarian crisis.
UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths is trying to restart political negotiations to end the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and also caused the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
(AFP)

Yemen’s warring
parties have agreed to exchange around 1,000 prisoners,
including 15 Saudis, as part of trust-building steps aimed at
reviving a stalled peace process.

The Yemeni government, backed by a Saudi-led military coalition, and the Houthi movement they have been battling for
over five years, in late 2018 signed a deal to swap some 15,000
detainees split between both sides but the pact has been slowly
and only partially implemented.

The two sides will now free 1,081 detainees and prisoners, UN envoy Martin Griffiths said in a joint news briefing with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) after a nearly 10-day meeting of the prisoners’ exchange committee held in the Swiss village of Glion above Lake Geneva.

READ MORE: Yemen government, Houthi rebels agree to swap over 1,000 prisoners

‘Well done’

Heads of the two sides of the committee hugged at the end of
their meeting, with Griffiths telling them: “Well done, well
done.”

Sources familiar with the talks and Houthi-run Masirah TV
said the movement would release 400 people, including 15 Saudis
and four Sudanese, while the coalition would free 681 Houthi
fighters in the largest swap since peace talks in Stockholm in
December 2018.

“I urge the parties to move forward immediately with the release and to spare no effort in building upon this momentum to swiftly agree to release of more detainees,” Griffiths said.

READ MORE:
Why are the Houthis open for talks with the Saudi-led coalition?

‘Implementing prisoners exchange’

ICRC Middle East Director Fabrizio Carboni, sitting next to
Griffiths, called on the two warring parties to provide
“security and logistical guarantees” for swift releases. 

The
ICRC team will interview those released and give them medical
checks.

Yemen has been mired in conflict since the Houthis ousted
the internationally recognised government from power in the
capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the Western-backed
coalition to intervene in March 2015.

Griffiths is trying to restart political negotiations to end the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and caused what the United Nations describes as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with millions on the brink of famine.

“What matters to us is implementing the prisoners (exchange) and not just signing it,” senior Houthi political official Mohammed Ali al Houthi tweeted earlier on Sunday.

Negotiations to end war

In unilateral moves, the Houthis last year freed 290
prisoners and Saudi Arabia released 128, while a locally
mediated swap in Taiz governorate saw dozens freed. 

In January
2020, the ICRC facilitated the release of six Saudis held by the
Houthis.

The conflict, seen in the region as a proxy war between
Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been in military stalemate for years
with the Houthis holding Sanaa and most big urban centres.

Riyadh launched informal talks with the Houthis late last
year for a ceasefire as it seeks to exit a costly war ahead of
hosting a summit of the Group of 20 nations in November.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

This article was originally published on TRT World