UN disappointed over failure of Yemen prisoner swap talks

By Mohammed Alragawi

ISTANBUL (AA) – The UN expressed disappointment Sunday over the lack of any progress in the latest round of talks between Yemen’s warring parties on a prisoner swap.

“I am disappointed that this round of talks did not amount to what we saw in Switzerland last September, which resulted in the historic release of 1,056 detainees,” UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths said in a statement.

During the latest talks, the parties “discussed strategies and possibilities to fulfill their commitments under the Stockholm Agreement. Although the parties did not agree to releases during this round of talks, they committed to keep discussing the parameters of a future expanded release operation,” Griffiths said.

The fifth meeting of the Supervisory Committee on the Implementation of the Prisoners and Detainees Exchange Agreement between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels concluded in Amman, Jordan.

The meeting was co-chaired by the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Yemeni government and Houthi rebels began a new round of UN-brokered negotiations for a prisoner exchange on Jan. 24 this year.

“I urge the parties to continue their discussions and consultations to conclude the implementation of what they agreed to and expand the arrangements to release more detainees soon. I reiterate my call for the unconditional release of all sick, wounded, elderly and children detainees as well as detained civilians, including women and journalists,” Griffiths added.

The Office of the Special Envoy for Yemen confirmed its commitment to support the parties’ efforts in implementing the Prisoners and Detainees Exchange Agreement. It also expressed its gratitude to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for hosting the round of talks.

In December 2018, government representatives and Houthi rebel leaders held UN-brokered talks in Stockholm, Sweden which yielded a cease-fire agreement and the swapping of prisoners in the coastal city of Al-Hudaydah.

A deal was struck in Switzerland in September last year, and hundreds of fighters from both sides returned home the following month in the largest handover since the beginning of the war.

Yemen has been immersed by violence and chaos since 2014, when Iran-aligned Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital Sana’a.