Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 3 December 2020

Yemen's warring parties to start talks on second prisoner swap

Government and Houthi rebel representatives will convene in Amman on Thursday

Yemenis arrive at Aden airport after being released in a prisoner swap between the government and the Houthi rebels in October 2020. Wail Shaif / dpa 
Yemenis arrive at Aden airport after being released in a prisoner swap between the government and the Houthi rebels in October 2020. Wail Shaif / dpa 

Yemen's government will hold talks with Houthi rebels in the Jordanian capital on Thursday to arrange the next stage of a prisoner exchange deal, a government official told The National.

Majid Fadel, a member of the government's negotiating team, accused the Houthis of backtracking on an agreement reached at UN-led talks in Geneva in September to release all remaining prisoners, including four high-level government figures held by the rebels.

“The new negotiation round will start next Thursday in Amman and I would like to remind the Houthis that we have agreed in the last negotiation round in Montreux to implement a second swap deal to free all the remaining prisoners," Mr Fadel said.

A member of the Houthi negotiating team told the rebels' Al Masirah news channel on Saturday that the next round of talks would be based on an agreement signed in Amman in February under which the government would release 200 Houthis in exchange for 100 prisoners held by the rebels, including Naser Mansur Hadi, the brother of Yemeni President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.

Mr Fadel rejected this, saying the agreement at the last round of talks in Geneva was for the rebels to free all prisoners. This would include the president's brother, former defence minister Brig Mahmoud Al Subaihi and two other senior figures.

“The Houthi militia continues its blatant fallacy regarding the prisoner file,” he said.

“Everybody knows that our demand since the Stockholm agreement was signed in December 2018 is to free all the prisoners and all the detainees on the basis of 'all for all', but the Houthi militia has been persisting in politicising this humanitarian file.”

The government and rebels made a breakthrough in the drawn-out prisoner exchange negotiations in September leading to the exchange of 1,081 prisoners last month, which the UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, hailed as one of the biggest prisoner swaps of its kind yet.

Mr Griffiths, who brokered peace talks in Sweden two years ago, said after the exchange that thousands of other men were still detained and an agreement must be reached to release them.

“We will soon convene the parties to discuss more releases, in line with the commitment they made in Stockholm in December 2018 to release all conflict-related prisoners and detainees,” he said.

Updated: November 16, 2020 08:10 PM

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