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Yemen Peace Talks: Houthis and Gov’t Exchange Prisoner Lists

  • Over 60,000 people have died in the Yemen war since 2016.

    Over 60,000 people have died in the Yemen war since 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 11 December 2018

The prisoner swap, which includes journalists, activists, and top officials, is one of several major issues the two warring sides are discussing in peace talks in Geneva, Sweden.

Yemen's Houthi rebel fighters and the Saudi-backed government exchanged lists of around 15,000 prisoners in total Tuesday as part of a swap agreed to as a confidence-building measure at the start of U.N.-sponsored peace talks.

Yemen: Houthis Urge Transitional Gov’t With All Parties

"We have exchanged more than 7,000 names from each side, including some 200 high-ranking officers," said Ghaleb Mutlaq, a delegate for the Houthis. The Houthi delegate said a joint committee would investigate those still missing.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s foreign minister said in a tweet that the Yemeni government had submitted a list of 8,576 prisoners, including activists and journalists, Reuters reports. AP reported that around 8,200 names had been given.

Delegates said the prisoner swap would be conducted via Houthi-held Sanaa airport in north Yemen and government-held Sayun airport in the south — a process to be overseen by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Both parties have yet to settle other significant sticking points as they meet at the peace talks in Sweden, ending Dec. 13.

The talks are being held as Western allies pressure Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both leaders of a military coalition backing Hadi’s government, to end a war that has pushed Yemen to the verge of famine.

Pro-Houthi protesters demonstrate against the Saudi-led coalition in Hodeidah, Dec. 10. | Reuters

Some of the major issues the two warring parties will negotiate include a ceasefire in the port of Hodeidah, the reopening of Sanaa airport and the shoring up of the Central Bank, which had nearly doubled the interest rate September in an effort to stabilize the riyal after violent protests erupted in the wake of the currency’s plummeting value.

Yemen’s civil war, which has been taken advantage of by regional and foreign powers as a proxy war, began between September 2014 and January 2015 when the Houthis seized control of the capital, Sanaa, and began claiming more territory in the south toward Aden, Yemen’s second-largest city.

In 2015, a military campaign backed by a coalition of Arab states was launched to defeat the Houthis and restore government control.

The war and the ensuing economic collapse have left 15.9 million people, 53 percent of the population, facing "severe acute food insecurity" since it began.

In November 2018 alone, nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the war and the harsh conditions surrounding it. Since January 2016, around 60,110 people have been killed, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED).

Humanitarian groups say peace is the only way of ending the world's largest humanitarian crisis. The areas hit with extreme hunger are also the areas where there is active fighting.

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