Yemen prison swap deal to kick off Thursday: Reports
The Yemeni prisoner swap deal that will include hundreds of prisoners is expected to kick off Thursday, giving rise to hopes for peace.
An official from the Saudi-backed Yemeni government announced that a prisoner swap involving hundreds of prisoners will start Thursday.
According to the official, over 900 prisoners, most of whom were fighting with the Sanaa government forces, will be exchanged between Riyadh and Sanaa.
Yemen has been under an international war waged mainly by the United States and Saudi Arabia and backed by the United Arab Emirates, though there have been peace talks signaling that the end of the war is on the horizon.
The prisoner exchange, the biggest since October 2020, will span three days and multiple Yemeni and Saudi cities, said Majid Fadael, the official spokesperson for the delegation negotiating the exchange.
Sanaa authorities will release 181 prisoners, including Saudis and Sudanese, in exchange for 706 that the parties to the aggression have been holding, an agreement reached last month in Switzerland stipulated.
"All arrangements have been completed... to implement the agreed-upon exchange process," Fadael tweeted.
"The first day of the exchange process will be through reciprocal flights of the Red Cross between Aden-Sanaa and Sanaa-Aden," he added.
"Our teams are on the ground working to facilitate the safe transfer and repatriation of detainees," Jessica Moussan, public affairs and media relations advisor at the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
"We are hoping that the upcoming detainee release operation in Yemen will take place in the next few days. However, considering the complexity of such an operation, we are not in a position to confirm any specific dates as the situation continues to evolve," she told AFP.
Representatives of the Yemeni Ansar Allah and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government kicked off in March talks in Geneva for an exchange of prisoners, with the UN urging both sides to engage in "serious" discussions.
The new round of closed-door negotiations was overseen by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Within the framework of this deal, the sides agreed "to release all prisoners, detainees, missing persons, arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared persons, and those under house arrest," held in connection with the war, "without any exceptions or conditions."
"In 2020, more than 1,050 detainees were released and provided with transportation to their region of origin or home country following an agreement reached by the sides," the ICRC said.
The latest meeting comes almost a year after Ansar Allah said they had agreed to a prisoner swap that would see 1,400 of its fighters freed in exchange for 823 Saudi-backed or Saudi militants.
"The ICRC is committed to supporting the implementation of future detainee releases and exchanges, and to repatriating or transferring released detainees across front lines back to their respective homes," the organization said.
Moreover, ahead of the big release, the head of the Yemeni National Committee for Prisoners' Affairs, Abdul Qadir Al-Murtada, revealed that 13 prisoners arrived on Saturday at Sanaa International Airport, upon their release by the Saudi authorities in exchange for a Saudi prisoner.
"We hope that this step will be a prelude to the implementation of the deal agreed upon at the end of this week, God willing," the head of the prisoners' committee in the Sanaa government said in a tweet.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Saeed Al Jaber, said Monday during a visit to Sanaa that his trip was aimed at consolidating the armistice, establishing a ceasefire, and backing the prisoner swap deal, as well as discussing the means of dialogue between the various Yemeni political components to reach a comprehensive and sustainable political solution in Yemen.
The Ambassador announced his visit on Twitter, saying the trip would be a continuation of Riyadh's efforts to bring an end to the Yemeni crisis and in support of the initiative that Saudi put forward in 2021.