Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Yemen’s Houthis, Saudi Arabia complete prisoner swap

Yemen’s Houthi movement and Riyadh-backed Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) have released dozens of inmates on the last leg of a three-day exchange of nearly 900 detainees, raising prospects for nationwide peace in the warn-torn country.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which is managing the prisoner exchange, said on Sunday that planes carrying released detainees took off at the same time from the capital city of Sanaa and the energy-rich northern city of Marib.

“The first flight from Marib and the first flight from Sanaa have left,” ICRC media adviser Jessica Moussan told AFP news agency.

She added, “Forty-eight former detainees were on board the Marib-Sanaa flight, while 42 others were on the Sanaa-Marib flight.”

Three other flights during the day were to complete the deal, the senior official from the Geneva-based humanitarian organization noted.

Mahdi al-Mashat, head of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council, said the next round of talks with Saudi Arabia would start after the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which is expected on April 21 and marks the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Yemen’s official Saba news agency reported.

The last talks ended hours before 318 prisoners were transported on four flights on Friday between the southern Yemeni port city of Aden and Sanaa, reuniting detainees with their families. On Saturday, 357 detainees took flights between the Saudi city of Abha and Sanaa. Saudis were among the prisoners freed. It is not known how many prisoners each side still has.

All parties to the conflict in Yemen agreed at negotiations in Switzerland last month to free 887 detainees and to meet again in May to discuss further releases. The deal was overseen by the United Nations envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, and the ICRC.

Riyadh and Tehran last month agreed to restore diplomatic ties severed in 2016, raising hopes Yemen’s peace process will see progress.

Saudi Arabia launched the bloody war against Yemen in March 2015 in collaboration with a number of its allies and with arms and logistics support from the US and several Western states to reinstall Mansour Hadi, who resigned from the presidency in late 2014 and later fled to Riyadh amid a political conflict with the popular Ansarullah movement.

The war objective was also to crush the Houthi movement, which has been running state affairs in the absence of an effective government in Yemen.

However, it has stopped well shy of all of its goals, despite killing tens of thousands of Yemenis and turning the entire country into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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