Yemen’s National Salvation Government and the Saudi-sponsored regime of the country’s ousted President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi have started negotiations aimed at implementing a 2018 United Nations-brokered deal on a prisoner exchange.
The UN said in a statement on Saturday that the talks, co-chaired by UN envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), are taking place between the two warring sides in Switzerland.
Grundberg called on both parties to “engage in serious and forthcoming discussions to agree on releasing as many detainees as possible,” according to the statement.
“I urge the parties to fulfill the commitments they made, not just to each other, but also to the thousands of Yemeni families who have been waiting to be reunited with their loved ones for far too long,” he said.
Jason Straziuso, a Geneva-based spokesperson for the ICRC, described the negotiations as an opportunity to “reduce the humanitarian suffering associated with this conflict.”
“If more detainees are released, it will be welcome news for families that can be re-united with loved ones,” Straziuso said.
Majed Fadail, Yemen’s deputy minister for human rights and a member of the government delegation, was also cited by Yemen’s Saba news agency as saying that the negotiations on a prisoner exchange would last for 11 days.
Fadail said they were eager to release the entire war prisoners to help achieve a “lasting and comprehensive peace” in Yemen.
The talks in Switzerland are a follow-up to the Detainees’ Exchange Agreement, a 2018 deal that called on both parties to release all those detained in relation to the conflict “without any exceptions or conditions.”
The deal was part of a wider UN-mediated deal that put an end to months of fighting over Yemen’s Red Sea port of al-Hudaydah four years ago. Since then, the two sides have released many prisoners with a major exchange taking place in October 2020 and involving more than 1,000 detainees from both sides.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — the closest allies of the US in the region after the Israeli regime — have been waging the war on Yemen since March 2015.
The invasion has been seeking to change Yemen’s ruling structure in favor of the impoverished country’s former Riyadh- and Washington-friendly rulers and crush the popular Ansarullah resistance movement. The Saudi-led coalition has failed to meet any of its objectives.
The war, which has been enjoying unstinting arms, logistical, and political support on the part of the United States, has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and turned the entire country into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Yemen’s defense forces, which feature the country’s army and its allied Popular Committees, have, however, vowed not to lay down their arms until the country’s complete liberation from the scourge of the aggression.