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Yemen government, Houthis conclude prisoner swap deal

March 20, 2023 at 8:19 pm

UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg in Taiz, Yemen on November 8, 2021 [Abdulnasser Alseddik/Anadolu Agency]

The Yemeni government and the Houthis have agreed to free 887 detainees and to meet again in May, after 10 days of negotiations in Switzerland, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Monday, according to a Reuters report.

The deal which comes ahead of Ramadan adds to optimism for further releases and a final resolution to the conflict, following the resumption of ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia this month.

The head of the Yemeni government delegation said about 880 detainees will be freed, while the Houthis said 181 detainees would be freed, including 15 Saudis and three Sudanese, in exchange for 706 prisoners to be freed by the government, according to earlier statements on Twitter by the head of the Houthis’ Prisoner Affairs Committee, Abdul Qader Al-Murtada, and the group’s chief negotiator, Mohammed Abdulsalam.

UN Special Envoy, Hans Grundberg, said the deal was one of several developments that gave reason to believe things were moving “in the right direction”, and towards a resolution of the eight-year conflict that has left more than 20 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

READ: Saudi Arabia, Houthis agree to swap almost 900 prisoners following Switzerland talks

Negotiators had hoped for an “all for all” deal involving all remaining detainees during the 10 days of talks held near the Swiss capital, Bern. The talks were the latest in a series of meetings that led to releases of prisoners in 2022 and 2020 under an UN-mediated deal known as the Stockholm Agreement.

The conflict in Yemen has widely been seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, after the Houthis ousted the government from the capital, Sana’a in 2014.

A UN-brokered truce last April has largely held, despite expiring in October without the parties agreeing to extend it.