Yemen’s Conflicting Parties Are Optimistic over Prisoner Exchange Program

January 18, 2019

Yemen’s conflicting parties expects to hand-over the final list of prisoners to the United Nations after discussions in Amman on Thursday under an exchange accord.

The United Nations is pressing for the exchange and a peace pact in the main port city of Hodeidah and set the stage for a second round of discussions for concluding the almost four-year war that has killed more than tens of thousands of people.

While there has been advancement on the prisoner swap, the United Nations has grappled to put in place a troop pullout from the port city of Hodeidah. Hodeidah forms the lifeline for millions of Yemenis, amidst distrust among all sides.

On 11th December the Iranian-affiliated Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government swapped lists of around 15,000 prisoners. However, both sides need to put written remarks on lists offered by the opponent side, reply and sign the final versions before delivering them to the United Nations and the Red Cross which would supervise the exchange.

Hadi Haig, the head of the government delegation stated that they area at a stage where there are some gaps and it needs to be addressed. Muin Shreim, deputy to the U.N. special envoy to Yemen, stated that the special meeting had a positive mood.

The prisoner exchange was one of the least disputatious confidence-building steps taken during last month’s U.N.-backed peace discussions in Sweden, held amidst Western pressure to finish the battle that has left 15.9 million people in the brink of extreme hunger.

Abdul Qader Murtada, who spearheaded the Houthi delegation, stated that they conceded to have another round of discussions to settle issues that were not allowing the enforcement of the deal. He did not mention when that meeting would take place.

Hodeidah that is currently retained by the Houthis and thousands of coalition forces remaining on the outskirts became the focal point of last year’s war, heightening fears that a full-scale attack might cut supply lines and lead to mass starvation.

The U.N. Security Council accepted the stationing of around 75 observers to the Red Sea city, the entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s commercial imports and aid, to supervise a ceasefire and troop pullout by both sides.

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