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US News Yemen: historic agreement on an exchange of 1,081 prisoners

19:15  27 september  2020
19:15  27 september  2020 Source:   lepoint.fr

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  Yémen: accord historique sur un échange de 1.081 prisonniers © Provided by Le Point

The Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels have agreed on an exchange of 1,081 prisoners, after a week of discussions in Switzerland , presented as the "most important" in the history of the conflict.

The special envoy of UN for Yemen , Martin Griffiths, greeted Sunday in front of journalists and Yemeni delegations this exchange which he described as "the most important" in the history of the war which lasts since 2014.

He also indicated that the delegations had agreed to meet "to negotiate new releases", during the announcement in a chalet of a large hotel in Glion, on the heights of Lake Geneva.

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The heads of delegation of the two parties - who did not make a statement - shook hands and embraced, under the gaze of Mr. Griffiths and the regional director of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for the Near and Middle East, Fabrizio Carboni.

As part of a UN-sponsored peace agreement reached in Sweden in 2018, the government, backed by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia , and Iran-backed Houthi rebels agreed to an exchange of about 15,000 inmates in total.

Since then, the two parties have already sporadically exchanged prisoners. But the release of hundreds of loyalists and insurgents would represent the first large-scale exchange since the start of the war.

The agreement, which is due to be implemented in two weeks, covers the release of "681 rebels and 400 members of government (and allied) forces, including 16 Saudis and 4 Sudanese", told AFP a member of the government delegation who requested anonymity.

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According to him, the release by the rebels of the brother of Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, General Nasser Mansour Hadi, has been postponed.

"We all know that it is now essential to move quickly and decisively towards the implementation" of the agreement concluded in Switzerland, underlined the UN envoy.

"Security guarantees"

The ICRC will supervise the return of prisoners to their families.

"This release will relieve the suffering of many detainees and many families who have waited so long to be reunited," Fabrizio Carboni said during the announcement.

"As a neutral intermediary (...), we are ready to help with the release once the implementation plan has been approved," he continued.

The ICRC official described the agreement as a "very positive step" but called on the parties to quickly agree on the stages, logistical issues and security guarantees so that "this operation (...) becomes a reality. ".

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According to Mr. Carboni, the ICRC is "convinced that this release (...) will contribute to renewing solid and valid peace talks". Mr. Griffiths had warned in mid-September of "intensified fighting, increased humanitarian needs and the Covid-19 pandemic which is wreaking havoc" in Yemen, which "is deviating from the road to peace".

The agreement has been hailed by the government and the rebels, with Yemeni foreign minister Mohammed al-Hadhrami calling for it to be implemented "without delay".

Houthi-controlled Al-Massirah TV reported that both sides are committed to implementing the deal.

Elisabeth Kendall, specialist on Yemen at the University of Oxford, saw it as "a positive step", while considering that the "exchange of prisoners is not likely to bridge the gap between the parties in conflict for may the peace negotiations begin ".

The number of detainees is "far from that agreed in Sweden", she stressed.

The conflict in Yemen has claimed tens of thousands of lives, most of them civilians, and resulted in what the UN describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"We look forward to meeting again very soon to discuss further releases but also, of course, to ensure that this release takes place quickly and efficiently and in a comprehensive manner," concluded Griffiths.

09/27/2020 15:16:49 - Dubai (AFP) - © 2020 AFP

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