Yemen talks make ‘important progress’ on prisoner swap: UN

AMMAN (AFP) – Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and Huthi rebels have made “important progress” during talks in Jordan on a troubled United Nations (UN)-brokered prisoner swap deal, mediators said on Friday.

The huge prisoner exchange agreed in Stockholm in December is seen as a crucial confidence-building measure in the UN-led push to calm four years of devastating conflict.

After three days of talks in the Jordanian capital, a UN committee tasked with overseeing the swap said the warring sides had made “important progress in moving the release process forward”.

That headway included “providing additional information on the status of individuals included in the lists of prisoners”, it added.

Both sides have said repeatedly they remain committed to the agreement that could see thousands of prisoners released.

During talks in Jordan last month, they submitted lists of the detainees they each want to see freed, but deep distrust prevented them coming up with a final list of names for the exchange.

At the end of January, the rebels released a captured Saudi soldier while Riyadh set free seven Huthi prisoners, but they are the only detainees exchanged under the deal so far.

UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths said on Tuesday at the opening of this round of talks he hoped the two sides would manage to finalise the swap deal.

“Success in this regard is not only of huge importance for those who will be released and return to their families but also to the broader political process in which we are engaged,” he said