Advertisement

Yemeni government, rebels agree to terms on prisoner swap

By
Daniel Uria
Negotiators for Yemen's government and Houthi rebels shook hands Tuesday after agreeing to terms on a large-scale prisoner swap during peace talks in Sweden. Photo by Claudio Bresciani/EPA
Negotiators for Yemen's government and Houthi rebels shook hands Tuesday after agreeing to terms on a large-scale prisoner swap during peace talks in Sweden. Photo by Claudio Bresciani/EPA

Dec. 11 (UPI) -- The Yemeni government and Houthi rebels on Tuesday agreed to terms on a prisoner swap, including more than 16,000 detainees, set to take place early next year.

The agreement was reached at a closed-door meeting in Sweden where the warring sides exchanged lists of prisoners they planned to release, with the government including 8,576 detainees and the Houthis submitting the names of about 7,487 people, Al-Jazeera reported.

Advertisement

Documents showed the government requested at least 800 teachers, 359 children, 357 tribal figures, 200 mams, and 88 women be among those released. Askar Zouail, a member of the government's delegation, also said the government requested the body of Ali Abdullah Saleh, a Houthi ally who was killed in 2017 after stating he would engage in talks with Saudi Arabia if it stopped its bombing campaign.

The two sides set Jan. 20 as the date to begin the exchange, but the government expressed hope the Houthis would release some high-profile prisoners before talks end on Friday as a show of goodwill.

RELATED Yemen peace talks encouraging, U.N. envoy says

Hadi Haig, head of the government's prisoner swap committee, said the exchange would be carried out in stages and could take up to 48 days to complete.

Advertisement

Abdul Qader al-Murtada, a member of the Houthi delegation, said the two sides also agreed the International Committee of the Red Cross would provide the planes used to carry out the exchange and prisoners would be flown out of Seyoun in central Yemen and rebel-held Sanaa.

"The ICRC will act as a neutral intermediary between the parties and provide technical and, if needed, logistical support to facilitate the transfer and release [of captives]," ICRC spokeswoman Jessica Moussan El Zarif said. "We hope that the implementation of the agreement will bring comfort to many families who have lost contact or have been separated from their loved ones due to the conflict."

RELATED U.N. agencies warn aid is needed to save lives in Yemen

The government and the rebels have been meeting since Thursday to discuss ways to end the fighting that has killed an estimated 60,000 people.

Tuesday's meeting ended with handshakes, hugs and kisses between negotiators for both sides, but Maysa Shuja al-Deen, a non-resident fellow at the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies, said there are still "major obstacles to overcome" including settling disputes over Houthi controlled areas.

"It's great news for the thousands of people detained that they will now be released, but this isn't a major breakthrough,"Shuja al-Deen said.

Advertisement
RELATED Houthis, Yemen alliance agree to swap hundreds of prisoners in peace process

Latest Headlines