Houthi, former Yemeni govt. delegations agree to prisoner swap

Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement and the country’s former Saudi-backed government say they have reached an agreement to carry out a mass prisoner swap, finalizing a key issue at UN-brokered peace negotiations in Sweden.

An unnamed adviser to the Houthi delegation in Sweden told AFP on Monday that the list of names would be completed by the end of the day, adding, “There might be an announcement of dates.”

Meanwhile, Haid Haig, the head of the Saudi-backed former Yemeni government delegation tasked with the swap, separately told AFP that the deal would be completely implemented by the end of January.

“We agreed … the deal would be complete within 48 days,” he said, adding that the list of names should be “mutually handed over by end of day today.”

According to Haig, between 1,500 and 2,000 members of the pro-government forces and between 1,000 and 1,500 Houthi fighters would be released during the swap.

The peace talks, brokered by United Nations Special Envoy Martin Griffiths and his team, began in the rural village of Rimbo on Thursday, aiming to end a nearly four-years-long brutal war imposed by Saudi Arabia on the impoverished nation.

Leading a coalition of its allies, including the UAE and Sudan, the Arab kingdom invaded Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who had resigned amid popular discontent and fled to Riyadh.

The imposed war initially consisted of an aerial campaign, but was later coupled with a naval blockade and the deployment of ground mercenaries to Yemen. Furthermore, armed militia forces loyal to Hadi, in line with invaders, launch frequent attacks against Yemeni people in regions held by Houthis.

Since the onset of aggression, the Yemeni army, backed by fighters from Houthi Ansarullah movement, has been defending the impoverished nation against the invaders. The coalition is also resolute to crush the movement as another goal in its war on Yemen, which is teetering on the edge of famine.

The aggression is estimated to have left 56,000 Yemenis dead.

Riyadh had declared at the start of the invasion that the war would take no more than a couple of weeks.

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