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ConflictsMiddle East

Yemen: Warring parties agree to swap over 1,000 prisoners

September 28, 2020

Yemen's internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebels have reached a deal to release over 1,000 prisoners in a swap. The exchange will be the first large-scale handover since the war broke out in 2014.

Representatives of Yemen's government and Houthi rebels agree to a prisoner swap deal
Image: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Yemen's warring sides on Sunday agreed to release over 1,000 detainees and prisoners in a swap deal, the United Nations said.  

Delegates from Yemen's internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebels agreed to the deal as UN-sponsored talks concluded in Switzerland.

"Today is an important day for over a thousand families who can expect to welcome back their loved ones hopefully very soon," UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths said in a statement.

The two parties have seen occasional prisoner exchanges in the past but the release of over 1,081 loyalists and insurgents would be the first large-scale handover since the war began in 2014.

Read more: Fear of further fragmentation growing in Yemen

After 5 years of war, Yemenis on the brink

A 'humanitarian' breakthrough

The swap is scheduled to start in mid-October, a rebel official told the media.

"The agreement to swap prisoners is considered an important step to break the ice after four rounds of negotiations on this file," the head of a rebel committee in charge of prisoners of war, Abdel-Qader al-Murtada, said.

Yemen's Foreign Minister Mohammad al-Hadhrami welcomed the deal as a "humanitarian" breakthrough. However, he also tweeted that "the government demands the agreement is implemented without stalling."

The agreement includes the release of 681 rebels and 400 government forces and allies, AFP quoted a member of the government delegation as saying. The report added that there were 15 Saudi and four Sudanese individuals in the group.

dvv/sri (AFP, dpa)