BFF-62 Yemen govt, rebels swap names of 15,000 prisoners at UN talks

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Yemen govt, rebels swap names of 15,000 prisoners at UN talks

RIMBO, Sweden, Dec 11, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Yemen’s government and rival
rebels announced Tuesday plans for a mass prisoner swap, exchanging at least
15,000 names, as UN-brokered talks on ending the country’s war entered their
seventh day.

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 talks
since Thursday in the rural town of Rimbo in Sweden.

Askar Zaeel, a government negotiator on the prisoner swap, said the rebels
had named 7,687 detainees whom they were willing to release. The government
had named 8,576 detainees, Zaeel said.

Zaeel told AFP the government demanded the rebels hand over the body of
Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s former president who was killed at the hands of
the Huthis after he broke a fragile alliance with the rebels to re-align with
Saudi Arabia.

The Huthi rebels announced that the names of a total of 15,000 detainees
and prisoners had been exchanged.

Both parties confirmed they had two weeks to revise the list of names.

The rebels and government have agreed to a 45-day deadline for the
exchange, sources in both delegations said.

Prisoners will be flown out through two airports: government-held Seyoun,
in central Yemen, and the rebel-held capital Sanaa, home to an international
airport that has been largely shut down for three years.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has confirmed it will oversee
the exchange.

– ‘Considerable’ prisoner swap –

The Sweden talks are the first meeting between the two parties in the
Yemen conflict, which pits the Iran-backed Huthis against the Hadi
government, allied with a regional military coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

Brokered by UN special envoy Martin Griffiths earlier this month, the
prisoner swap was one of the main points — and the least contentious — at
this week’s talks.

Griffiths told reporters on Monday the prisoner swap would be “very, very
considerable in terms of the numbers that we hope to get released within a
few weeks”.

The prisoner exchange was the only issue the rival delegations were
confirmed to have met on face-to-face.

Among the other issues under discussion are potential humanitarian
corridors, the reopening of the defunct Sanaa international airport, and
Hodeida, the rebel-held city at the heart of an ongoing government offensive.

The talks are expected to last a week.

BSS/AFP/RY/1945 hrs