News ID: 235627
Published: 0317 GMT December 11, 2018

Yemen's warring parties exchange prisoner lists, talks focus on Hodeida

Yemen's warring parties exchange prisoner lists, talks focus on Hodeida
A convoy of vehicles transporting UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths drive during a visit to the Red Sea port of Hodeida, Yemen, on November 23, 2018.

Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement and the Saudi-backed former government on Tuesday exchanged lists of some 15,000 prisoners for a swap agreed as a confidence-building measure at the start of UN-sponsored peace talks.

Both parties at the consultations in Sweden, set to last until Dec. 13, have yet to settle major sticking points, including a cease-fire in the port of Hodeida, reopening of Sana’a International Airport and shoring up of the Central Bank of Yemen, Reuters reported.

The talks are being held as Western allies press Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, leaders of a military coalition backing the former government of Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, to end a war that has pushed Yemen to the verge of famine.

Delegates said the prisoner swap would be conducted via the capital’s airport in north Yemen and coalition-held Sayun airport in the south – a process overseen by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“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.

Former Yemeni foreign minister, Khalid al-Yamani, tweeted that they had submitted a list of 8,576 prisoners. The Houthi delegate said a joint committee would investigate those still missing.

Tuesday's talks focused on Hodeida, a major Red Sea port and humanitarian lifeline for millions that is now a focus of the war, according to a source familiar with the consultations.

Both parties have also agreed on a UN role in the port but differ on who should control the city itself. The Houthis said it should be declared a neutral zone, while the other side wants Hodeida under its control.

UN mediator Martin Griffiths wants to avert a full-scale coalition assault on Hodeida, the entry point for most of Yemen's commercial goods and vital aid.

Despite warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe, the Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive on Hodeida in June in an attempt to weaken the Houthis.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE want to exit a costly conflict that has killed thousands of people, as they face years of military stalemate. Western nations, some of which supply the alliance with arms and intelligence, want the war to end.

The United Nations said Monday it was seeking $4 billion to provide humanitarian aid to some 20 million Yemenis next year – or about 70 percent of the war-stricken country's population.


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