Yemen prisoner swap terms expected in coming days, says govt delegate

Yemen prisoner swap terms expected in coming days, says govt delegate

ADEN: Yemen’s warring parties are expected to agree on the terms of a prisoner exchange in around 10 days, a representative of the internationally recognized Yemeni government said on Wednesday.

Talks between the two sides took place in Jordan last week. Both parties need to agree on lists of prisoners to be swapped.

“We expect that in 10 days time the final signing will have happened,” the head of the government delegation to the prisoner-exchange talks, Hadi Haig, told Reuters by telephone.

The UN is pushing for the exchange and a peace deal in Yemen’s main port, Hodeidah. That could open the way for more talks between the Iran-backed Houthi militants and the Yemeni government on ending the country’s civil war. 

The swap was one of the least contentious confidence-building measures at December’s UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden, held amid Western pressure to end the conflict. The fighting has lasted nearly four years, killed tens of thousands of people.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday that it hopes to see “progress in the coming days” and urged the warring parties not to let the opportunity slip away.

“This is a crucial moment for the people of Yemen,” Red Cross regional director Fabrizio Carboni said in a statement. 

The ICRC official said it was preparing for the swap by increasing staff numbers and arranging medical support. 

The ICRC was also preparing two planes to carry detainees between Sanaa and Sayoun, a town under the control of the Yemeni government, he said.

The conflict pits the Iran-backed Houthis against Yemeni forces backed by an Arab coalition, which are trying to restore the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The conflict began after pro-democracy unrest forced the former president, the late Ali Abdullah Saleh, to step down in 2012. 

Hadi was elected to a two-year term to head a transitional government. Later Hadi was forced into exile by the Houthis, which prompted the Arab coalition to intervene in Yemen in 2015.

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