Yemen Fighters Begin Prisoner Exchange Talks in Jordan as Part of UN Peace Efforts

Delegates from Iran-aligned Houthi movement and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government meet in Amman to discuss implementation of deal reached in UN-led talks

Head of Houthi delegation Mohammed Abdul-Salam (R) and Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yaman (L) shake hands, during the Yemen peace talks, Sweden, December 13, 2018.
TT News Agence/Reuters

Yemen’s warring sides started talks on Wednesday in the Jordanian capital about a deal to free thousands of prisoners as part of UN-led peace efforts, two UN sources said.

Delegates from the Iran-aligned Houthi movement and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government had arrived in Amman earlier. They will discuss the implementation of a deal agreed in UN-led talks in Sweden in December that would allow thousands of families to be reunited.

“The meetings of the two sides with us began,” a UN source not authorized to speak publicly told Reuters.

Western nations, some of which supply arms and intelligence to a Saudi-led coalition backing the government, had pressed the two sides to agree confidence-building steps to pave the way for a wider truce and a political process to end the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people.

The deal to free prisoners was part of confidence-building measures that included a plan to withdraw from the contested port city of Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions facing famine, and place it under the control of an interim entity.

The two sides exchanged lists of some 15,000 prisoners for a swap agreed at the start of the Sweden talks and delegates said it would be conducted via the Houthi-held Sanaa airport in north Yemen and the government-held Sayun airport in the south.

The process would be overseen by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The operation will require the Saudi-led coalition to guarantee that air space is secure for flights, the ICRC said.