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Yemen Government and Houthi Rebels Agree to Prisoner Swap

March 21, 2023, 2022 (EIRNS)—In what could be one of the first fruits of the China-mediated agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to re-establish diplomatic relations, Yemen’s Houthi rebels based in Sana’a and the internationally recognized government, based in Aden and run by Saudi Arabia, have agreed on talks in Bern, Switzerland to swap more than 880 prisoners, both sides said March 20, as efforts accelerate to end the war, reported Agence France-Presse from Dubai. AFP notes that the agreed exchange comes after Saudi Arabia and Iran, which back opposing sides in the Yemen conflict, earlier this month moved towards restoring diplomatic ties after a seven-year rupture.

A UN-brokered ceasefire in Yemen that took effect in April 2022 brought a sharp reduction in hostilities, the report continues. The truce expired in October, though fighting largely remains on hold. Under the agreement, the Iran-backed Houthis will release 181 detainees, including Saudi and Sudanese nationals, in exchange for 706 prisoners, said Abdul Qader al-Murtada, who heads the Houthis’ National Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs. “The swap will be implemented after three weeks,” Murtada said, explaining there are plans for another round of prisoner-exchange talks in coming months. Majed Fadail, a member of the Yemeni government’s delegation, said that the Houthis would release former Defense Minister Mahmoud al-Subaihi and other officials, as well as four journalists.

The prisoner swap was announced after Hans Grundberg, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, last week revealed “intense diplomatic efforts” to end the conflict.

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