Yemen’s warring rivals kick off discussions on prisoner swap in Geneva


Representatives of Iran-backed Houthi rebels and Yemen’s government kicked off a new round of closed-door negotiations on an exchange of prisoners in Geneva on Saturday, with UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg calling on both sides to engage in “serious and forthcoming discussions to agree on releasing as many detainees as possible.”

The negotiations, reportedly set to last 11 days this time, come amid Yemen’s nearly decade-long conflict and are being overseen by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The talks mark the seventh meeting aimed at implementing an agreement on prisoner exchanges reached in the Swedish capital of Stockholm five years ago, the UN said.

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

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In 2020, more than 1,050 detainees were released and provided with transportation to their respective destinations, the ICRC said in a statement in relation to the past meetings resulting in the release of prisoners on both sides.

The latest round of talks comes months after the Houthi rebels said they had agreed to an exchange of prisoners that would see 1,400 rebels freed in exchange for more than 800 pro-government fighters, including 3 Sudanese and 16 Saudi nationals. But the two parties have since held discussions in Jordan that did not yield any developments.

Grundberg has highlighted the importance of reaching an agreement as soon as possible. “With Ramadan approaching”, he urged the warring parties to fulfill the commitments they made and help thousands of Yemeni families reunite with their loved ones.

The Iran-backed Houthis grabbed control of the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in 2014, triggering an intervention by a Saudi-led coalition on behalf of the Yemeni government in 2015. Since then, a brutal conflict has pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine while killing scores of people.

Nevertheless, since an UN-brokered truce took effect last April, fighting has largely been on hold, even after the ceasefire expired in October.



Roshan Amiri is an advocate for the truth. He believes that it's important to speak out and fight for what's right, no matter what the cost. Amiri has dedicated his life to fighting for social justice and creating a better future for all.

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