Middle East

UN: Yemen’s warring sides resume talks on prisoner exchange

CAIRO (AP) — Yemen’s warring sides Sunday resumed United Nations-backed negotiations over a prisoner swap, the world body said, more than three months after they completed the war’s largest exchange.

The talks in the Jordanian capital Amman between representatives of the internationally recognized government and the Huthi rebels, came less than a week after the US designation of the Iranian-backed rebels as a terrorist group went into effect.

The UN’s special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, urged the gathering in Amman to prioritize “the immediate and unconditional release of all sick, wounded, elderly and children detainees as well as all arbitrarily detained civilians, including women.”

The talks in Amman are facilitated by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, Griffiths’ office said.

In October, the warring sides achieved the largest-ever prisoner swap of the war, releasing more than 1,000 detainees. That followed occasional releases of dozens of prisoners over the past two years, which also served as gestures of good faith, stoking hopes the factions would implement a peace deal struck in 2018 in Sweden.

Yemen’s devastating conflict erupted in 2014, when the Huthis seized the capital, Sanaa, and much of the country’s north. That prompted a US-backed Arab military coalition to intervene months later in a bid to restore the government of Yemeni President Abed Rabu Mansour Hadi to power.

The meeting in Amman came after the US declared the Huthis a “foreign terrorist organization,” a designation that took effect Jan. 19, a day before Joe Biden was inaugurated president.

The US move prompted the UN secretary-general and other humanitarian officials to urge Washington to reverse the designation to prevent massive famine and death in Yemen.

Yemen is in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The war that has killed more than 112,000 people and wrecked the country’s roads, hospitals, water and electricity networks, as well as other infrastructure.

Image: A Yemeni detainee is greeted by his relative and friends after his release from a prison controlled by Huthi rebels, in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. The International Committee of the Red Cross says Yemen’s Huthi rebels have released 290 detainees rounded up over the years and held in several detention centers across the war-torn country. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

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