Yemen: UN brokers prisoner swap pact with Houthis

            By Murad el-Arifi </p>  <p>SANAA (AA) - The Yemeni government and Saudi-led coalition have signed a UN-backed prisoner exchange agreement with the Houthi rebel group, a senior member of the Houthis said Monday. </p>  <p>&quot;The UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, communicated to us that coalition forces and the Yemeni government have also signed the prisoner exchange agreement that was signed in November by the Houthis,&quot; said Abdul Qader al Murtaza, chairman of the Houthi administration’s Committee for Prisoner Affairs. </p>  <p>He added that the agreement marks the first step toward resolving Yemen’s humanitarian crisis. </p>  <p>It also comes ahead of UN-sponsored talks in Stockholm, Sweden this month between Yemeni government officials and Houthi rebels aimed at ending the more than three-year war.</p>  <p>Yemen has been wracked by violence since 2014, when the Houthi rebel group overran much of the country. The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains. </p>  <p>Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies accuse the Houthis of acting as a proxy force for Riyadh’s arch-foe Iran. </p>  <p>Tens of thousands of people, including civilians, are believed to have been killed and the UN estimates that around 14 million Yemenis are at risk of famine. 

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