The warring sides of Yemen agree to exchange more than 1,000 prisoners during UN-sponsored talks in Switzerland.
The internationally recognized government of Yemen and Houthi rebels have agreed to exchange some 1,000 detainees and prisoners, including 15 Saudis, as part of confidence-building measures aimed at reviving a stalled peace process, the United Nations said.
“I am personally extremely pleased to be here to announce that you have reached a very important milestone,” UN envoy Martin Griffiths told reporters on Sunday.
The Yemeni government, backed by a Saudi-led military coalition, and the Houthi movement signed an agreement to exchange around 1
The two sides will now release 1,081 detainees and prisoners, Griffiths said at a joint press conference with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) following a nearly 10-day meeting of the prisoner exchange committee held in the Swiss village of Glion above. Lake Geneva.
Sources familiar with the talks and Houthi-run Masirah TV said the movement will release 400 people, including 15 Saudis and four Sudanese, while the coalition will release 681 Houthi fighters in the largest exchange from the Stockholm peace talks in December. 2018.
“I urge the parties to move forward with the release immediately and spare no effort to build on this momentum to quickly accept the release of more detainees,” Griffiths said.
ICRC director for the Middle East Fabrizio Carboni, seated next to Griffiths, called on the two sides to the conflict to provide “security and logistical guarantees” for rapid releases. The ICRC team will interview the rescued and give them medical checks.
In one-sided moves, the Houthis released 290 prisoners last year and Saudi Arabia released 128, while a locally brokered exchange in Taiz governorate saw scores released. In January of this year, the ICRC facilitated the release of six Saudis held by the Houthis.
The latest talks, which began on 18 September in a secret location in Switzerland, aimed to accept the release of 1,420 prisoners. Among them is the brother of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
But the release of General Nasser Mansour Hadi from the hands of the rebels “has been postponed”, according to a member of the Yemeni government delegation.
Yemen has been mired in conflict since the Houthis removed the internationally recognized government from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the Saudi-led coalition to intervene in March 2015.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, and triggered what the UN calls the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
The conflict is widely seen in the region as a proxy war between rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. Riyadh initiated informal ceasefire talks with the Houthis late last year in an attempt to get out of a costly war.