Yemen prisoner swap talks begin in Amman

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Yemeni government and Houthi delegations met in Amman on Saturday for the second day of a new round of prisoner swap talks, raising hopes for the release of hundreds of captives.

The discussions, sponsored by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, began on Friday and are likely to focus on securing an agreement to exchange hundreds of inmates in the coming weeks.

Majed Fadhail, a member of the government delegation, told Arab News that the delegations met three times on Friday, but have yet to reach an agreement on the number of prisoners to be released.

“There has been no development up to this point, and we continue to engage in ongoing discussion,” Fadhail said.

The head of the Houthi delegation, Abdul Kader Al-Murtadha, said that they traveled to Amman to discuss with the Yemeni government delegation problems and obstacles that prevented the implementation of previously agreed-upon points.

“We hope it will be as successful and fruitful as the last one,” Al-Murtadha tweeted.

During the first round of prisoner trade talks that began in Switzerland in March, the Yemeni government and the Houthis agreed to swap 900 prisoners, exchange visits to each other’s cities, and reconvene in May to discuss exchanging a larger number of prisoners.

Despite freeing hundreds of prisoners in April, both parties had already swapped allegations over the failure to exchange visits to jails in Sanaa and Marib, which pushed the second round of talks back to June.

The UN Yemen envoy’s office said that the talks will focus on the release of more prisoners, and thanked Jordan for its support.

The Yemeni government vowed to prioritize the freeing of prominent politician Mohammed Qahtan, who has been held by the Houthis since 2015, and will reject any outcome of the talks until he is released.

The government had previously declared that it would boycott talks with the Houthis until Qahtan’s family was permitted to visit him.

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