09/28/2020, 10.02
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Yemen, massive prisoner exchange amid UN hopes for a ceasefire

Houthi and government delegates, supported by the Saudis, signed the exchange of 1081 prisoners. At the end of the meeting an embrace between the parties. UN special envoy: rare event, such a large number happens "at the end of the war". The hope of a national truce.

Geneva (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A first tentative step towards a nationwide ceasefire and a political solution that could lead to the end of the war.

This is what the UN special envoy for Yemen underlines, commenting on the announcement yesterday about the agreement for a massive exchange of prisoners between Houthi rebels, close to Iran, and the government army, supported by the Saudi-led Arab coalition .

“I was told that it’s very rare to have prisoner releases of this scale during the conflict, that they mostly happen after a conflict,” U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths announced.

Yesterday the warring parties signed a pact that provides for the exchange of 1081 prisoners, including 15 Saudis. An agreement that is part of the negotiations renewed this year in a climate of mutual trust and aimed at resuming a peace process that has been stalled for some time.

The local operators of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will be responsible for the exchange, the details of which have yet to be finalized.

Torn by a war since 2015 pitting the Saudi-backed government against Iran-supported Houthi rebels, the Yemeni conflict has provoked the "worst humanitarian crisis in the world". The coronavirus pandemic has had even more devastating impact with a healthcare system that has collapsed. Millions of people are on the verge of starvation and experts say children will suffer the consequences for the next 20 years.

The goal of future talks, explains the UN special envoy, is to arrive at a "national ceasefire" that can then lead to "the end of the war in Yemen". To this should be added the gradual opening of ports, airports, roads and infrastructure. At the end of the meeting (in the photo) the leaders of the two delegations - Houthi and government - embraced under the gaze of Martin Griffiths, who commented on several occasions: "Well done, well done".

Riyadh welcomed the agreement positively as a step towards a far-reaching political solution. Colonel Turki al-Malki, commander of the Saudi-led Arab coalition, stresses that "the spirit of the agreement is humanitarian" and lays "solid foundations for dialogue and the achievement of an all-out political agreement". Abdulkader al-Murtada, head of the Houthi committee that dealt with the exchange of prisoners, confirms the climate of "mutual trust" between the parties, which could "positively influence" the other dossiers still open.

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