March 21 (United Press International) — Warring parties in Yemen’s nearly decade-long conflict have agreed to a prisoner exchange involving nearly 900 detainees, officials said, amid growing hopes that an ongoing truce could eventually lead to an end to the war.
The prisoner exchange was announced in Switzerland on Monday by UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grunberg and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The swap involved 887 conflict-related detainees, though officials would not say how many had been released by Iran-backed Houthi rebels or the internationally recognized Yemeni government, citing the sensitivity of the situation.
“Today, hundreds of Yemeni families can look forward to being reunited with their loved ones,” Grunberg said during the meeting. press conference.
The announcement came on the ninth anniversary of the war that broke out in September 2014 when Shiite Houthi rebels took control of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.
Yemen has been devastated since the conflict began.The United Nations has long described the country as the world’s worst humanitarian conflict more than 20 million Some 33 million of them are in need of assistance. Millions of people are internally displaced and more than 16 million suffer from hunger, including 5 million facing famine.
However, the prison exchange took place during a nearly year-long truce that was agreed first Last April, hopes were rising as further agreements, such as the one signed on Monday, would formally end the war.
Monday’s prisoner exchange was announced at the conclusion of a 10-day meeting of the supervisory committee on the implementation of the Stockholm Accord’s detainee exchange agreement.
Signed in December 2018, Stockholm Agreement The plan is made up of three parts to which both sides are committed, including establishing a mechanism for the exchange of prisoners of war.
Monday’s announcement ends the seventh meeting of the prison exchange committee and plans for officials to reconvene in May to discuss more releases, the United Nations said.
Grunberg added that the two sides also pledged to jointly visit each other’s detention facilities.
“For people who know about the conflict, for people who know about Yemen, they know what’s going on for families and for the people of Yemen,” Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC’s regional director, told reporters at a news conference. How important it is.” Meeting on significance of Monday’s announcement
“It was an expression of hope, it was an expression of humanity, and it showed all parties to the conflict the way forward.”
The prisoners have yet to be released, and Carboni said his organization stands ready to act as a mediator to ensure detainees understand what is happening and that they can return home.
“Obviously, to do this work, the ICRC team needs to have free and unrestricted access to the detainees, especially in the coming days and weeks, so we can have private talks “This allows us to gather informed consent for transfers and identify any special needs for them.”
He said more work had to be done and further negotiations were needed to secure the release of more detainees.
The White House on Monday welcomed the announcement of the prisoner exchange.
“This important step builds on the positive environment created by the Yemeni truce, which has effectively halted fighting for the past 11 months,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson. a statement“Over the past year, thanks to aggressive and persistent U.S. diplomacy, levels of violence in Yemen have reached their lowest levels since the war began more than a decade ago.
“We remain committed to building on this work and continuing to advance towards a durable solution to the conflict.”
The two sides have previously exchanged prisoners 1,056 exchanges 2020 and May 117.
United Nations officials did not say how many detainees were still being held by the warring sides.