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10 Days Will Decide Fate of Yemen Prisoner Exchange

10 Days Will Decide Fate of Yemen Prisoner Exchange

Wednesday, 23 January, 2019 - 08:30
Delegates from the legitimate government and Houthis meet to discuss prisoner swap deal in Amman, Jordan January 17, 2019. (Reuters)
Aden, Jeddah – Ali Rabih and Saeed al-Abyad
The upcoming ten days are expected to be decisive in the prisoner exchange expected between the legitimate Yemeni government and Iran-backed Houthi militias.

Head of the government delegation, Hadi Haig told Asharq Al-Awsat that comments were exchanged on Tuesday on prisoner lists that have so far been presented. The Houthis had delayed in submitting their observations to the office of UN envoy Martin Griffiths.

A response to the comments should be submitted within seven to ten days at most, added Haig.

An agreement has been reached for the warring parties to make remarks on the lists according to a sample that was agreed to with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The government had objected to Houthi comments on the prisoner file, saying they violated an agreement reached in Amman last week. The militias had failed to adhere to a “unified mechanism” that was demanded by the ICRC.

The Houthis had in turn accused the government of failing to respect its commitments to the swap deal, Haig added.

“Such maneuvering confirms to us that the militias are still” adopting stalling tactics and they are reluctant to implement the exchange, he said.

The Houthis have for weeks been stalling in committing to the Sweden ceasefire deal on Hodeidah that was reached in December. The prisoner exchange was included in the deal.

Government officials revealed that they had received orders from President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi to present all possible concessions in order to ensure the success of the prisoner swap seeing as it is a strictly humanitarian file.

The government has presented a list of 9,000 detainees and abductees held in Houthi jails. The militias have in turn submitted a list of 7,500 people its claims are being held by the government.

The Houthis have also refused to submit clarifications on the hundreds of names presented by the government, including prominent leader in the Islah party Mohammed Qahtan. Observers interpreted this move as an attempt to obstruct the exchange and exploit the prisoners to achieve political purposes.

Should the conditions for the swap be met, then the ICRC will oversee its execution through transferring prisoners between the Sanaa and Seiyun airports.

The government says that the majority of detainees in Houthi jails are activists and civilians, who were kidnapped off the streets. The majority of prisoners held by the government are Houthi fighters who have been detained on the battlefield.

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