Warring sides in Yemen have agreed to implement a major prisoner swap, the United Nations said on Sunday.
“Delegates representing the parties to the conflict in Yemen agreed on a detailed plan to complete the first official large-scale exchange of prisoners since the beginning of the conflict,” said a joint statement by the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen (OSESGY) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The statement described the deal between representatives of Yemeni revolutionaries and the Saudi-backed government as a step towards the fulfillment of the parties’ commitment to the phased release of all conflict-related detainees according to the Stockholm Agreement, adding that it was at the conclusion of a seven-day meeting in Jordan’s capital, Amman.
On Sunday, “the parties decided to immediately begin with exchanging the lists for the upcoming release,” according to the statement as reported by Al-Manar Website Correspondent in UN Office Geneva Ahmad Hajj Ali.
Martin Griffiths, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen urged the parties to move forward with the exchange they agreed “with the utmost sense of urgency.”
“Progress has been too slow on this front. The pain of the thousands awaiting reunion with their loved ones must end. Today the parties showed us that even with the growing challenges on the ground, the confidence they have been building can still yield positive results,” he added.
“Today, despite ongoing clashes, we saw that the parties have found common humanitarian ground that will allow many detainees to return to their loved ones. This shows that only the parties themselves have it in their hands to bring about positive and lasting change. This is very encouraging and will hopefully lay the ground for further releases in a near future,” said Franz Rauchenstein, the head of the ICRC in Sanaa.
The UN mission did not disclose specific numbers for the expected prisoner exchange but the Head of National Committee for Yemeni prisoners’ affairs Abdul-Qader al-Murtaza said in a tweet that the first phase of the deal included the release of more than 1,400 prisoners from the two sides.
He said talks would continue for another two days to “prepare and revise the final lists”.
Sunday’s announcement came a day after the Saudi-led coalition launching a brutal aggression on Yemen committed horrble massacre in Al-Jawf by targeting dozens of civilians who were gathering at the scene of a downed Saudi-led fighter jet. At least 30 civilians were martyred and many others were injured in the Saudi strike on Al-Jawf on Saturday (February 15).
Source: Al-Manar Website Correspondent in UN Office Geneva Ahmad Hajj Ali