Yemeni govt and rebel delegations on Tuesday signed a prisoner swap
Yemeni government sources confirmed Wednesday that a mass prisoner swap with rebels included Saudi soldiers fighting alongside state troops, as UN-brokered peace talks neared their end.
Two government officials, including one in the delegation at the talks in Sweden, told AFP that the list of names they requested released by the Huthi rebels included Saudi soldiers. Both requested anonymity.
The Huthis had said Tuesday that the list included Saudi soldiers. Saudi Arabia leads a regional military alliance battling the rebels.
A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition and a UN official did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Nearly four years into a war that has pushed 14 million Yemenis to the brink of mass starvation, the Saudi-backed government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and Huthi rebels, linked to Riyadh’s arch-rival Iran, have been in UN-brokered talks since December 6 in the rural Swedish town of Rimbo. The talks are expected to close Thursday.
The government and rebel delegations on Tuesday signed a mass prisoner swap, exchanging more than 15,000 names in the first agreement between the two parties in years.
The deal will be overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which warns the exchange could take weeks.
Mediators are pushing for a de-escalation of violence in rebel-held Hodeida, a port city vital to the delivery of humanitarian aid, and the reopening of Sanaa international airport.
The government accuses the rebels of smuggling arms through Sanaa airport and Hodeida on the Red Sea. The Saudi-led coalition has severely restricted flights to and from Sanaa and shipments through Hodeida.