Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Saudi Arabia releases Houthi inmates as Omani delegation visits Sanaa to mediate fresh truce

Saudi Arabia has freed more than a dozen Houthi detainees ahead of a wider prisoner release agreed upon by the warring sides, according to a spokesman for the Yemeni group.

The release on Saturday came as Omani officials arrived in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, as part of international efforts to end Yemen’s years-long conflict.

Abdul-Qader el-Murtaza, a Houthi official in charge of prisoner exchange talks in Yemen’s conflict, said on Twitter that 13 Houthi prisoners have arrived in Sanaa.

He added the prisoners were released in exchange for a Saudi prisoner the Houthis had freed earlier. But he did not say when the rebels released the Saudi prisoner.

There was no immediate comment from the Saudi government.

“The detainees released today from Saudi prisons are part of the deal agreed via the United Nations, and next Thursday … the deal will be fully implemented,” al-Murtaza continued.

He was referring to a United Nations-brokered deal struck in Switzerland last month that includes the release of 887 prisoners.

The UN special envoy to Yemen has stated that the deal is one of several developments reflecting movement towards ending the eight-year conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and created one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.

The prisoner release comes as delegations from Oman and Saudi arrived in Yemeni capital Sanaa to hold talks with the head of Yemen’s Houthi Supreme Political Council, Houthi-run news agency Saba reported on Sunday.

Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdul Salam, who is based in Muscat, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that he had arrived in Sanaa with an Omani delegation.

Oman has for years hosted talks between Houthis and Riyadh.

These negotiations – which run in parallel to the UN peace efforts – have gained momentum in recent weeks after Saudi Arabia reached an agreement with Iran to restore their diplomatic ties after a seven-year rift.

The Iran-Saudi deal, announced in Beijing on March 10, has invigorated hopes of a settlement to Yemen’s conflict.

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