Houthis unveil new prisoner exchange deal with Yemeni govt

Aden (Yemen), Apr 17 (IANS): Yemen's Houthi rebels have unveiled a new prisoner swap agreement with the country's government, raising hopes for a peaceful resolution to the country's ongoing conflict.

The move comes just hours after the Iran-backed Houthis and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government successfully completed a prisoner swap in which 887 prisoners and detainees from both sides were released.

Abdul-Qader al-Mortada, head of the Houthi committee for prisoners' affairs, said on Sunday during a press conference held in the Houthis-controlled Yemeni capital of Sanaa that "an upcoming deal will involve the release of 700 captives in exchange for 700 prisoners from the opposing side (referring to the government)".

However, the Houthi official did not provide details on the timing for the exchange and the signing of the deal with the Yemeni government, Xinhua news agency reported.

So far, both the Yemeni government and the International Committee of the Red Cross(ICRC), who was responsible for transporting detainees as agreed in the just-finished swap deal, have not commented on the Houthi announcement.

In a significant step toward resolving the protracted conflict in Yemen, Yemeni government forces and the Houthi rebels successfully completed a three-day exchange of prisoners earlier in the day.

Yahya Kazman, chief of the negotiation committee from the internationally-recognised Yemeni government, said the third and last batch of the swap concluded successfully on Sunday, with the arrivals of three Red Cross flights at the airport of Sanaa and the airport of Tadween in Marib, central Yemen.

Over the past three days, the ICRC and the UN have facilitated the transportation of hundreds of prisoners between Yemeni regions and Saudi Arabia via flights.

High-profile figures, including Nasser Mansour Hadi, the brother of former Yemeni president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and Mahmoud Al Subeihi, the country's former Defence Minister, were among those who were freed.

The prisoner swap comes as part of ongoing efforts aimed at building trust between the Yemeni government forces and the Houthi militia, who have been engaged in a brutal internal conflict since late 2014.

It is also widely regarded as a crucial step toward preparing favourable conditions for and demonstrating both parties' commitment to forthcoming negotiations that aimed at achieving a lasting peace.

Local observers said that the three-day prisoner swap has raised hope for further deals that could potentially lead to the release of all captives held by the two warring sides.

Yemen has been embroiled in a years-long military conflict after the Houthi militia took control of several northern cities and ousted the Yemeni government from Sanaa in 2014.

The ongoing conflict has resulted in a staggering number of casualties and has plunged the Arab world's poorest country into humanitarian crises, including a widespread famine.



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Title: Houthis unveil new prisoner exchange deal with Yemeni govt

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