Yemen gov’t, Houthis agree to exchange 1,000 prisoners

Elias Hubbard
September 28, 2020

The prisoner-swap deal was seen as a breakthrough during 2018 peace talks in Sweden.

Abdulkader al-Murtada, of the Houthi prisoner exchange committee Abdulkader al-Murtada, gave the same figures to reporters in Glion, saying: "Of course this file is considered to be one of building trust between the parties and if there has been any positive movement in the prisoners' file, without a doubt it will influence the other files". Implementation of this tentative peace program, however, stumbled towards continuing army offensives and distrust between the two sides.

"It is necessary to immediately put the deal in place and set free prisoners and detainees without any delay, leading up to freeing all prisoners and reuniting them with their families", Nayed Al Hajraf, the GCC secretary general said.

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

The conflict in the Arab world's poorest country erupted in 2014, when the Iran-allied Houthis seized the capital and much of the country's north. A Saudi-led coalition, determined to restore the government of President Abed Rabu Mansour Hadi, launched a military intervention months later.

The prisoner swap was aimed at reviving efforts to end a war that has created what the United Nations called the world's worst humanitarian crisis. It's killed over 100,000 people, such as fighters and civilians.

Sunday's deal came in the conclusion of a yearlong assembly in Glion, Switzerland which was co-chaired by Griffiths' office along with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Saudi-led coalition, which is supporting the Yemeni government, welcomed the agreement and said it was purely humanitarian and in line with the Stockholm Agreement.

Sources familiar with the talks said the Yemeni government, backed by a Saudi-led military coalition, and the Iran-aligned Houthi group they have been battling for over five years have agreed on a list of 1,080 prisoners to be swapped in what would be the largest instalment yet.

The Houthi officials spoke on condition of anonymity because there were not authorized to brief the media.

The UN reported the deal was constructed on a strategy either side consented to in February.

Al-Maliki said Yemeni prisoner exchange agreement also includes the release of four Sudanese.

"I was told that it's very rare to have prisoner releases of this scale during the conflict, that they mostly happen after a conflict", United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths announced.

Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC's director for the Middle East, also urged the parties to swiftly work to move the agreement "from signatures on paper to reality on the ground".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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