Yemen warring parties agree on prisoner swap
KUWAIT CITY – Agence France-Presse
Armed Houthi followers rally against Saudi-led air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen June 14, 2015 - REUTERS photoYemen’s government and Iran-backed rebels agreed May 10 to free half of the prisoners and detainees held by both sides, in the first breakthrough in peace talks that began last month.
Officials from the two delegations told AFP that a working group formed by the U.N. special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, had reached an agreement to release the prisoners and detainees within 20 days.
The government’s official news agency Saba also confirmed the deal, citing the official delegation.
The U.N. envoy said the two sides were expected to finalize the agreement on May 11.
“They agreed in principle to explore a proposal to release 50 percent of all detainees held by each side ahead of the holy [Muslim fasting] month of Ramadan and eventually release all detainees,” said Ould Cheikh Ahmed.
“They agreed to continue discussions in the next session scheduled for May 11,” he said in a statement.
The issue was discussed as part of confidence-building measures.
There has been mounting international pressure to end the Yemen conflict, which the United Nations estimates has killed more than 6,400 people and displaced 2.8 million since March last year.
“It was agreed during the meeting to release 50 percent of the prisoners and detainees within the next 20 days,” said Mane al-Matari, media adviser to Yemen’s foreign minister who heads the government delegation.
A source close to the Houthi rebel delegation also said an agreement had been reached, describing it as “an exchange of prisoners.”