Yemen's Houthis and government say prisoner exchange deal reached

  • World
  • Monday, 20 Mar 2023

DUBAI (Reuters) - The two sides in Yemen's conflict on Monday said they had agreed to exchange some 880 detainees after talks in Switzerland facilitated by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The head of the Yemeni government delegation told Reuters around 880 detainees would be exchanged.

Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group said it would release 181 detainees, including 15 Saudi and three Sudanese, in exchange for 706 prisoners from the government, according to statements on Twitter by the head of the Houthis' prisoner affairs committee Abdul Qader al-Murtada and the group's chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam.

The U.N. and ICRC did not immediately confirm that a deal had been reached.

There is hope that a deal could facilitate broader efforts to end the conflict, which have been helped by the resumption of ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia this month.

U.N. special envoy Hans Grundberg told the U.N. Security Council last week that there were intense diplomatic efforts at different levels to end the fighting.

The exchange of around 15,000 conflict-related detainees has been under discussion as a key confidence-building measure under a December 2018 U.N.-mediated deal known as the Stockholm Agreement.

But progress has been slow. A few exchanges, including in 2022 and 2020, have been coordinated by the ICRC, alongside smaller deals directly between the warring parties.

The conflict in Yemen has widely been seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis ousted the government from the capital Sanaa in 2014.

A U.N.-brokered truce last April has largely held, despite expiring in October without the parties agreeing to extend it.

(Reporting by Muhammad Ghobari, Writing by Lisa Barrington and Emma Farge; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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