Yemen warring parties agree prisoner swap as peace efforts accelerate

March 21, 2023

DUBAI: Yemen´s Huthi rebels and the internationally recognised government have agreed at talks in Switzerland to swap more than 880 prisoners, both sides said on Monday as efforts accelerate to end the war.

The agreed exchange comes after Saudi Arabia and Iran, who back opposing sides in the conflict, this month moved towards restoring diplomatic ties after a seven-year rupture. “An agreement has been reached to implement a (prisoner) swap” that will see more than 880 people released in total, said Abdul Qader al-Murtada, the leading Huthi delegate to the talks in Bern, according to the rebel´s Al-Masirah TV channel.

The exchange is set to take place within weeks, he said. The Huthis seized control of the capital Sanaa in 2014, prompting a Saudi-led intervention the following year and fighting that has left hundreds of thousands dead and caused one of the world´s worst humanitarian crises.

A UN-brokered ceasefire that took effect last April brought a sharp reduction in hostilities. The truce expired in October, though fighting largely remains on hold. Under the agreement, the Iran-backed Huthis will release 181 detainees, including Saudi and Sudanese nationals, in exchange for 706 prisoners, said Murtada, who heads the Huthi´s National Committee for Prisoners´ Affairs.

Sudanese soldiers have taken part in the Saudi-led coalition. “The swap will be implemented after three weeks,” Murtada said, noting there are plans for another round of prisoner-exchange talks in coming months.

Majed Fadail, a member of the Yemeni government´s delegation, said that the Huthis would release former defence minister Mahmoud al-Subaihi and other officials, as well as four journalists.