The Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Iran-aligned Houthis yesterday agreed on a mass prisoner swap deal, days ahead of the United Nations (UN) peace talks which are due to begin on Wednesday.
“The office of the UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, informed us on Sunday that the Saudi-led Arab coalition and the Yemeni government signed the prisoner swap deal, which we signed last November,” the chairman of Houthis’ Committee for Prisoner Affairs, Abdul Qader Al-Murtaza, said on Facebook.
Al-Murtaza added that his group were completing the deal’s procedures. “We [Houthis] received a signed copy of the agreement.”
“The deal will be the first step to end Yemen’s humanitarian issue,” he said, hoping that it would be “implemented without problems.”
The move comes as part of the Griffiths’ recent visit to the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, which has been under Houthis’ control since 2014.
On Monday, the Arab coalition allowed the evacuation of 50 injured Houthi fighters to fly to Oman for treatment.
The developments were believed to have paved the way for the start of previously scheduled UN-brokered peace talks between the warring parties in Sweden later this month. The talks are yet to be announced.
The negotiations are expected to discuss the opening of Sana’a airport, which has been closed for commercial flights since August 2016 due to restrictions imposed by the Saudi-led coalition. It will also include the lifting the Houthi-imposed siege on Yemen’s south-western city of Taiz.