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Jordan Approves to Host UN-Sponsored Yemen Meeting on Prisoner Exchange

Jordan Approves to Host UN-Sponsored Yemen Meeting on Prisoner Exchange

Tuesday, 15 January, 2019 - 10:15
UN envoy Martin Griffiths has said peace talks in Sweden will begin soon. Reuters
Aden - Asharq Al-Awsat
Jordan agreed on Tuesday to a UN request to host a meeting between the Yemeni government and the Houthi group to discuss a prisoner swap deal that would allow thousands of families to be reunited, a Foreign Ministry statement said.

The statement did not say when the meeting set up to discuss implementing the deal would convene.

This came at a time informed sources from the Iran-backed Houthis confirmed on Monday that militia representatives had left Sanaa to Amman in preparation for the talks with the government.

However, the issue is still not clear given conflicting information provided by both sides on the number of prisoners and detainees with each party.

Head of the government’s committee on prisoners and detainees Hadi Haig earlier predicted that the meetings with Houthi representatives will begin Wednesday, in preparation for the implementation of the agreement to release all prisoners.

The Houthis have denied the existence of thousands of detainees submitted by the government, claiming that they are fictitious or duplicate names or imprisoned for terrorist and criminal cases, according to Yemeni government sources.

They also said that the group did not provide information about hundreds of other detainees, including Major General Faisal Rajab and the top official in Reform Party Mohammed Qahtan.

Last month, the government negotiating team in Sweden presented a list of more than 8,500 detainees, most of whom were abducted by Houthis in areas under their control.

The group has begun trials in Sanaa in its State Security Court for dozens of activists and journalists who have been detained for about four years after being charged with a capital crime under Yemeni law.

The agreement between the Houthis and government was to be implemented in five stages in terms of exchanging prisoners' lists, prisoners and missing persons, and responding to the final regulations within six weeks of Sweden's consultations.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is to oversee the implementation of the agreement and the transfer of detainees by air from Sanaa to Seiyun and vice versa.

The government said it is keen to ensure the success of the exchange agreement, and it is ready to make all concessions needed given that they are purely humanitarian and have nothing to do with other political and security issues.

During the consultations, the Houthis provided lists of about 7,500 people, but the government indicated that most of the names are of people killed during battles.

Observers fear Houthi intransigence will derail the implementation of the agreement, as the group has previously done in Hodeidah. Up till now, the Houthis refuse to withdraw from Hodeidah and its port.

They also rejected redeployment under the plan proposed by the head of Redeployment Coordination Committee Retired General, Patrick Cammaert.

The group accused Cammaert of being biased, and its spokesman, Mohamed Abdul Salam, called on UN envoy Martin Griffiths to intervene.

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