A major prisoner exchange deal has been agreed between Yemen’s internationally-recognised government in exile and the Houthi-led government based in the capital Sanaa, the UN confirmed yesterday. This is being seen as progress being made in talks to end the five-year-old conflict.
Yesterday’s statement follows seven days of meetings between the two sides in Jordan’s capital, Amman. Although there have been previous prisoner exchanges, the UN said that this would be the “first official large-scale” exchange of its kind since the beginning of the conflict. However, The UN did not disclose specific numbers of prisoners expected to be swapped.
According to Aljazeera, however, a Houthi-official in charge of prisoners’ affairs tweeted that the first phase of the deal included the release of more than 1,400 prisoners from the two sides. Abdul Qadir Al-Murtada said talks would continue for another two days to “prepare and revise the final lists”.
Concluding a 7-day meeting in #Amman, the parties agreed on details to complete the 1st exchange of prisoners-a step towards fulfilling their commitment to the phased release of all detainees related to the conflict in #Yemen as per the #StockholmAgreement:https://t.co/3csEU8G0vu
— UN Special Envoy for Yemen (@OSE_Yemen) February 16, 2020
UN envoy Martin Griffiths explained that, “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 envoy’s office co-chaired the talks along with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
“Despite ongoing clashes,” noted Franz Rauchenstein, the head of the ICRC in Sanaa, “we saw that the parties have found common humanitarian ground that will allow many detainees to return to their loved ones.”
The prisoner swap deal was seen as a breakthrough during the 2018 peace talks in Stockholm. The agreements included a ceasefire in the strategic port city of Hudaydah. However, Implementation of the peace plan has been jeopardised amid continued military offensives and an ongoing siege.