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Yemen sides begin U.N.-brokered negotiations on prisoner exchange

by SAMY MAGDY The Associated Press | March 12, 2023 at 4:21 a.m.

CAIRO -- Yemen's warring sides began talks Saturday aimed at implementing a U.N.-brokered deal on a prisoner exchange, the United Nations said.

The discussions between Yemen's internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebels are taking place in Switzerland. They are co-chaired by U.N. envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Grundberg urged both parties to "engage in serious and forthcoming discussions to agree on releasing as many detainees as possible," according to a U.N. statement.

"I urge the parties to fulfill the commitments they made, not just to each other, but also to the thousands of Yemeni families who have been waiting to be reunited with their loved ones for far too long," he said.

Yemen's conflict erupted in 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, and much of the country's north. That prompted a Saudi-led coalition to intervene months later in a bid to restore the internationally recognized government to power.

Jason Straziuso, a Geneva-based spokesperson for the International Committee, characterized the meeting as an opportunity to "reduce the humanitarian suffering associated with this conflict."

"If more detainees are released, it will be welcome news for families that can be reunited with loved ones," he said.

Majed Fadail, Yemen's deputy minister for human rights, said the talks would last for 11 days, the government-run SABA news agency reported.

Fadail said the country is hoping to release all war prisoners to help achieve a "lasting and comprehensive peace" in Yemen.

Abdul-Qader el-Murtaza, the head of the Houthi delegation, said his group hoped this round of talks proves "decisive."

The conflict has created one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters and become a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The Yemen talks began a day after Iran and Saudi Arabia announced a China-brokered deal to re-establish diplomatic ties after years of hostilities.

Information for this article was contributed by Jamey Keaten of The Associated Press.

Print Headline: Yemen sides begin U.N.-brokered negotiations on prisoner exchange


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