Saudis, Houthis swap prisoners, plan further talks

Bilateral talks in Yemeni capital achieve “positive” results. Red Cross planes bring prisoners to Sana'a and Aden. UN envoy sees “hope”, stresses the importance of “constructive dialogue”.

Sana'a (AsiaNews) – The glimmer of hope for peace in Yemen remains alive following the Chinese-mediated diplomatic rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. More efforts are underway.

The first round of Saudi-Houthi talks in Sana'a ended today on a positive note with the parties pledging to meet again soon.

This morning, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced that Saudi Arabia and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have begun swapping almost 900 prisoners.

A plane carrying 35 people landed in Aden, which is controlled by the Saudi-backed Yemeni government; while another plane with 125 prisoners landed in Sana'a, Yemen’s Houthi-held capital.

In the coming days, more planes are set to carry released detainees in six Yemeni and Saudi cities in a process run by the ICRC.

“This release operation comes at a time of hope for Yemen as a reminder that constructive dialogue and mutual compromises are powerful tools capable of achieving great outcomes,” said UN Yemen envoy Hans Grundberg.

The parties agreed last month in Switzerland to release 887 detainees, scheduling further meetings for next month to discuss further prisoner exchanges.

The talks were the latest in a series of meetings that led to releases of prisoners in 2022 and 2020 under a UN-mediated deal known as the Stockholm Agreement.

“Our deep desire is that these releases provide momentum for a broader political solution," said Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC's regional director.

A Saudi delegation yesterday concluded peace talks in Sana‘a with the Houthi movement whose officials cited progress and said further discussions were needed to iron out remaining differences.

Houthi official Mohammed al-Bukhaiti described the negotiations as "going well". Another Houthi official, Abdulmalik Alejri, twitted that “with determination and honest intentions remaining difficulties can be resolved”.

Talks facilitated by Oman focused on a ceasefire, reopening Houthi-controlled ports and Sana‘a airport, reconstruction, and the withdrawal of foreign forces.

However, unresolved issues remain, including payment of public sector wages, which for the Houthis include the armed forces, and oil revenues.