Yemen’s internationally-recognised government said on Monday that it is looking for a breakthrough in ongoing prisoner swap negotiations in Geneva before the start of the fasting month of Ramadan next week. Talks between the government and the rival, Houthi-led government are currently being held under the auspices of the UN envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Grundberg called on both sides to “engage in serious and forthcoming discussions to agree on releasing as many detainees as possible,” according to a UN statement. “I urge the parties to fulfil the commitments they made, not just to each other, but also to the thousands of Yemeni families who have been waiting to be reunited with their loved ones for far too long.”
Majed Fadail, Yemen’s deputy minister for human rights and a member of the government prisoner swap committee, was quoted by The National as saying: “We are still in the early stages of the talks, we have revised some names and now we are exchanging lists.”
Fadail explained that the demand is being made for the release of 800 government and transitional forces, in exchange for 800 Houthi prisoners. According to the official, there are 2,223 named prisoners to be exchanged between the parties.
“Of those 19 are soldiers, 16 are Saudi nationals and three are Sudanese, in addition to the former minister of defence, Major General Mahmoud Al-Subaihi, General Nasser Mansour Hadi, General Muhammad Abdullah Saleh… a member of the Presidential Council,” he added. “We have accepted the terms of the Houthis but the militias are difficult to deal with and they prolong things. However, we hope that with the forthcoming holy month of Ramadan we will see some progress.”
Abdul Qader Al-Murtaza, the head of the Houthi Captive Affairs committee and leader of the Sanaa-based delegation in Geneva, said that they hoped that these latest rounds of talks will prove “decisive”.