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Yemen’s warring sides agree on prisoner exchange

The two sides in Yemen’s conflict say they have agreed to exchange about 880 detainees after talks in Switzerland facilitated by the United Nations.

March 21, 2023
21 March 2023

The Yemeni government and their rival Houthi rebels have agreed to exchange nearly 900 prisoners amid new diplomatic efforts by the United Nations in a bid to reach a sustainable truce in the war-torn country.

Earlier this month, negotiators from both sides began UN-brokered talks in Switzerland.

Houthis will release 181 prisoners in exchange for 706 to be released by the Saudi-backed government, Abdul-Qadir al-Mortada, the head of the rebels’ Prisoner Exchange Committee, said on Twitter.

The exchange is scheduled to take place after three weeks, and another round of talks is expected following the holy month of Ramadan that will begin this week.

Prisoners to be released by the Houthis include Saudi and Sudanese citizens, he added.

Government negotiator Majed Fadael said the deal includes releasing four journalists sentenced to death by the Houthis as well as senior government military officials including a former defence minister and sons of commander Tareq Saleh, currently a member of the country’s presidential council.

In 2020, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) facilitated the largest swap deal by Yemen’s rivals with more than 1000 people released over two days.

The two sides have been in conflict since 2014 when the Houthis took over the capital Sanaa and other cities, driving government members to flee towards the south.

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia launched a military coalition to support government forces when the Houthis advanced towards the government’s temporary seat Aden.

Last year, the UN brokered one of the longest lulls in fighting with a truce between April and October.

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