Expatica news

Yemen’s warring sides in prisoner exchange talks: ICRC

Rival parties in the Yemen conflict are in talks on a “quite considerable” prisoner exchange deal, a senior official from the International Committee of the Red Cross has told AFP.

The internationally recognised government, supported by a Saudi-led military coalition since 2015, has been battling Iran-backed Huthi rebels since they captured the capital Sanaa the previous year.

The two sides have made sporadic prisoner swaps but each is still believed to be holding thousands of prisoners of war.

“Today, the parties are talking about a prisoner release that is quite considerable, but there is still a bit of agreement that has to be made on lists” and implementation, said Franz Rauchenstein, head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen.

He said the agency was working very closely with the two parties to strike a deal.

“We are very hopeful it might take place in a few days or weeks from now, and the ICRC would be ready of course to implement that logistically,” Rauchenstein said in an interview at the weekend.

“But there are still a few agreements to finalise,” he added.

In February, the two sides reached an agreement after a week-long meeting in the Jordanian capital Amman on the first large-scale prisoner exchange since the start of the conflict, according to the United Nations.

The timing and the number of prisoners to be released were not specified.

Both sides had released hundreds of detainees late last year and the beginning of 2020 as part of sporadic swaps.

This came after the government and the Huthis agreed to exchange some 15,000 detainees as part of a peace deal brokered by the UN in Sweden in 2018.

The Yemen conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, and sparked what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.