Shia Houthi rebels and Yemen’s Saudi-backed exile government have agreed to release before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in early June 1,000 prisoners captured during the year-long war, Iran’s Press TV said Friday, quoting Houthi sources.
However, Press TV cited a source close to Yemen’s exile government as saying “all detainees”, who number over 4,000, would be released under the prisoner exchange deal.
The warring sides will submit a list of requested prisoner releases to United Nations mediators within two days, after which “local committees” will be created to speed up the exchanges, the Houthi sources were quoted as saying.
The decision was a show of goodwill as UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait to end the civil war between Iran-backed Houthis and the government of exiled president Abd Rabbuh Mansur dragged into a second month with scarce results to date.
A prisoner swap has been a long-sought sign of progress for the talks on ending the conflict in the impoverished country, in which over 9,400 people have been killed at least 16,000 injured since a Saudi-led coalition began an air campaign in March last year.
A tentative UN-backed ceasefire has been in place since last month aimed at boosting the peace talks, but both sides have accused the other of violating the truce.
Yemen is currently in a state of political limbo. The Iran-backed Houthis claim the parliament has been dissolved and replaced by a transitional revolutionary council, headed by Mohammed Ali al-Houthi. But the UN, US and Gulf Co-operation Council refuse to recognise the Houthis’ rule.