Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Yemen’s warring sides hold talks over prisoner swap after Iran-Saudi deal

Representatives of Yemen’s government and the Houthis began talks in Geneva on Saturday aimed at implementing a deal on prisoners exchange, the United Nations has confirmed. The negotiations started a day after Iran and Saudi Arabia announced an agreement to re-establish diplomatic ties.

The deal, which brought Yemen’s warring sides – the internationally recognised government and the Houthis – to Switzerland is being overseen by UN envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“I hope the parties are ready to engage in serious and forthcoming discussions to agree on releasing as many detainees as possible,” Grundberg said in a statement.

“I urge the parties to fulfil the commitments they made, not just to each other, but also to the thousands of Yemeni families who have been waiting to be reunited with their loved ones for far too long,” he added.

The talks, reportedly set to last 11 days, marked the seventh meeting aimed at implementing an agreement on prisoner exchanges reached in Stockholm five years ago, according to the UN.

Under that deal, the sides agreed “to release all prisoners, detainees, missing persons, arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared persons, and those under house arrest”, held in connection with the conflict, “without any exceptions or conditions”.

The ICRC noted that past meetings mediated by Grundberg’s office had “resulted in the release of prisoners on both sides”.

“In 2020, more than 1,050 detainees were released and provided with transportation to their region of origin or home country following an agreement reached by the sides,” it announced.

Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in March 2015 in collaboration with a number of its allies and with arms and logistical support from the United States and several other Western states.

The objective was to return power to Yemen’s former Riyadh-backed regime and crush the popular Ansarullah resistance movement, which has been running state affairs in the absence of an effective government in the Arab world’s poorest nation.

The war has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.

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