The UN envoy for Yemen says the country’s warring sides have agreed on a prisoner exchange as part of confidence building measures for the war-torn nation.
Martin Griffiths spoke at the opening of Yemen peace talks in Sweden on Thursday.
Representatives of the internationally recognized government, which is supported by a Saudi-led coalition, and the Iran-backed Shi'ite Houthi rebels sat across from each other as Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom and Griffiths opened the talks.
Griffiths said: “Today I’m also pleased to announce the signing of an agreement on the exchange of prisoners” that will allow thousands of families to be reunited.
Wallstrom told the Yemeni delegates: “Now it is up to you, the Yemini parties. You have the command of your future.”
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The UN food agency says it’s planning to rapidly scale up food distribution to help another 4 million people in Yemen over the next two months, more than a 50-percent increase in the number reached now — if access can be maintained in the poor, war-stricken country.
World Food Program’s spokesman Herve Verhoosel says the “ambitious undertaking” finalizes plans in the works in recent months to reach 12 million people with food and nutritional supplements through January, from between 7-8 million now.
The target population includes some 3 million women and children who need special support to prevent malnutrition. Verhoosel said the rollout will require “safe, immediate and unimpeded access for food and other vital supplies.”
WFP’s announcement on Thursday comes as Yemen’s warring parties are to hold U.N.-mediated talks in Sweden.