Saudi-led coalition, Yemen’s Houthis exchange prisoners’ visit

This visit comes in the wake of Saudi Arabia's call to extend the truce in Yemen, which expired on October 2, 2022.

Riyadh: The Arab coalition led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) announced that the two delegations from the coalition and the Iran-backed Houthi movement exchanged a visit to the prisoners of war on both sides as part of efforts to extend the truce.

Saudi-led coalition spokesman Brigadier General Turki al-Malki confirmed the visits in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Brigadier General Turki Al-Maliki, said, “This visit of a humanitarian nature is concerned with the prisoners’ file as a purely humanitarian case. It also comes as one of the gains of the armistice and the quest to extend it.”

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He indicated that “the file of prisoners receives special care and attention from the leadership of the coalition, and all efforts will continue to be made to return all prisoners of war from both sides and to end this file.

Abdul Qadir Al-Murtada, head of the National Committee for Prisoners Affairs of the Houthi group, took to Twitter and wrote, “Within the mechanism of verifying the statements of the first stage of the release of prisoners, which was agreed upon in the last (Oman) tour, a technical delegation from the Prisoners Committee went to Saudi Arabia, while a Saudi technical delegation arrived in Sanaa.”

He explained that the visit of the two delegations is “to verify the names and match them to reality, and has nothing to do with any other political dialogue.”

This visit comes in the wake of Saudi Arabia’s call to extend the truce in Yemen, which expired on October 2, 2022, amid fears that the country will return to the square of violence and fighting.

Al Arabiya TV quoted Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Wednesday as saying that efforts to extend the truce in Yemen are still in place, after the expiration of an initial agreement brokered by the United Nations between a Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi group early this month.

The Kingdom, the coalition and the Riyadh-backed Yemeni government are “keen on extending the truce,” the Saudi-owned TV quoted Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, as saying.

Truce opportunity

The truce began on April 2 and ended on October 2, 2022, in light of a war that has been going on for more than seven years.

The United Nations (UN) is pressing for an extension and expansion of the truce on the basis of the previous two-month truce that expired on October 2, after being extended twice, and which brought the longest relative lull in the seven-year conflict.

On August 29, 2022, the Yemeni government announced the suspension of its negotiations with the Houthis in the Jordanian capital, Amman, in response to a Houthi attack in Taiz.

The two parties, during consultations in Sweden in 2018, provided lists of more than 15,000 prisoners, detainees and abductees, but no accurate official census is available after this date.

An initial agreement was reached in March 2022 between the two parties under the auspices of the United Nations (UN), to release more than 2,200 prisoners, including Saudi soldiers, but the Houthis deliberately stalled, which prevented its implementation.

In September 2022, the Houthi group rejected an offer to exchange Saudi prisoners with it, as the Yemeni Saba agency, which is affiliated with it, quoted the head of the National Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs of the group, Abdul Qader Al-Murtadha, confirming this rejection.

The last prisoner exchange deal between the two sides dates back to 2020, when about 1,081 prisoners were exchanged, most of them from the Houthis.

At that time, the United Nations (UN) and the Red Cross sponsored the transfer of the prisoners of both parties by Red Cross planes, and the mediation was local without international intervention.

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia intervened through the Arab coalition to confront the Houthis, after they overthrew the internationally recognized government from Sanaa. The conflict claimed tens of thousands of lives.

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