Wed | Apr 8, 2020

YEMEN | Warring parties agree on major prisoner trade

Published:Monday | February 17, 2020 | 12:13 AM

Yemen’s warring sides have agreed to implement a long-delayed and major prisoner swap, the United Nations said on Sunday, in a sign that talks to end the disastrous war between the country’s internationally recognised government and its Houthi rebels could be making progress.

It would be the “first official large-scale” exchange of its kind since the beginning of the conflict in the Arab World’s poorest country, according to the UN.

The prisoner-swap deal was seen as a breakthrough during 2018 peace talks in Sweden. The Houthis and the internationally recognised government agreed then to several confidence-building measures, including a ceasefire in the strategic port city of Hodeida.

Implementation of the tentative peace plan stumbled amid ongoing military offensives and a deep-seated distrust between the two sides.

The conflict also has been a theatre for the regional rivalry between Iran, which backs the Houthi rebels, and Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition supporting the internationally recognised Yemeni government.

The UN mission in Yemen said that both the rebels and Yemeni government had decided to “immediately begin with exchanging the lists for the upcoming release” of prisoners. Sunday’s statement came after seven days of meetings between the two sides in Jordan’s capital, Amman.

POSITIVE RESULTS

“Today, the parties showed us that even with the growing challenges on the ground, the confidence they have been building can still yield positive results,” the UN envoy, Martin Griffiths, said.

The UN mission did not disclose specific numbers for the expected prisoner exchange.

Abdul-Qader al-Murtaza, a rebel official in charge of prisoners’ affairs, said in a tweet that the first phase of the deal includes the release of more than 1,400 prisoners from the two sides. He said talks would continue for another two days to “prepare and revise the final lists”.

AP