Yemen's Ansarullah, Saudi-led coalition reach prisoner exchange deal
An Ansarullah movement’s official says the Saudi-led coalition and militants fighting on its behalf in Yemen have signed a UN-brokered deal for exchanging prisoners with the Ansarullah movement, prior to the peace negotiations due to be launched in Sweden.
Abdul Qader al-Murtaza, chairman of the Ansarullah-run Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs, confirmed the news to Turkey’s Anadolu news agency on Monday.
“The UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, communicated to us that the (so-called) coalition forces and the Yemeni exiled government have also signed the prisoner exchange agreement that was signed in November by the Ansarullah,” he said.
Murtaza also noted that the agreement marks the first step towards resolving the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Peace talks between Yemen’s opposite parties are expected to begin in Sweden as early as Wednesday.
Griffiths arrived in Sana’a, the Ansarullah-run Yemeni capital, on Monday to escort the Ansarullah delegation to the planned discussions.
Meanwhile, a UN source told Reuters that the former Saudi-backed regime had also confirmed that it would follow the Ansarullah to the Sweden peace talks.
On Monday, a UN-chartered plane carrying 50 wounded Ansarullah fighters and three Yemeni doctors left Sana’a for Oman's capital, Muscat, for treatment. The plane took off just a few hours after the UN envoy arrived in Sana’a.
Griffiths thanked all parties for facilitating the evacuation of the wounded fighters.
Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a member of the Ansarullah political bureau, told Reuters that the movement’s delegation was scheduled to travel to Sweden Tuesday morning on a plane provided by Kuwait and accompanied by Griffiths.
However, Yemeni Minister of Information Daifallah al-Shami said that the Houthis had not received any official invitation for the UN-mediated peace talks in Sweden.
“So far (December 2), we have not received any invitation directly from the UN on peace talks in Sweden. From the efforts of UN and its special envoy, we can't see any clear vision for peace talks,” he said.
The previous round of the peace talks collapsed in the Swiss city of Geneva in September.
Saudi Arabia and its allies launched the deadly military aggression against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the country's former Riyadh-allied regime and crush the Ansarullah movement and the revolutionaries, who have been running state affairs in the absence of an effective government.
The war is estimated to have left 56,000 Yemenis dead. Back in June, the Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive on the port city of Hudaydah despite international warnings that it would compound the war-torn nation’s humanitarian crisis.
The Saudi-led offensive, coupled with a naval blockade, has destroyed Yemen's infrastructure and led to famine in the import-dependent state.
About 8.4 million Yemenis are now facing starvation. The number is likely to increase to 14 million.