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Houthi Lack of Cooperation Puts Prisoner Swap Talks on Ice

Houthi Lack of Cooperation Puts Prisoner Swap Talks on Ice

Thursday, 25 April, 2019 - 09:45
A view of cranes at the container terminal at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen January 5, 2019. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad/File Photo
Jeddah, Taiz - Asmaa Al Ghaberi, Asharq Al-Awsat
Majed Fadayel, Yemeni government representative to the Supervisory Committee on the implementation of the prisoner exchange, said that swap talks have been frozen due to Houthi lack of cooperation.

“Militias are looking to buy time in order to prepare for launching a new war effort”, Fadayel told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Last December, the internationally-recognized government headed by Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and Houthi militants inked a Hodeidah truce agreement in Stockholm, Sweden, under United Nations sponsorship.

The agreement included a prisoner exchange. Nevertheless, Houthis have chosen to keep the fate of some of the prisoners under their care unknown and suggested dividing the process into different phases.

The Houthi proposal, according to Fadayel, is not justified and could give the Iran-backed militia the time needed to round up more activists and use them as leverage at negotiations.

Last February, government and Houthi representatives at the Supervisory Committee held their last meeting in Jordan, where they produced a list including 2,500 names of war prisoners who would be released in the upcoming exchange.

Houthis, however, backpedaled from the initial agreement and refused to give information pertaining to some of the prisoners, especially those who were included in the United Nations Security Council 2216 resolution.

The resolution, acting under chapter VII of Charter, called upon Houthis to refrain from any provocations or threats to neighboring states, release the Minister for Defense, all political prisoners and individuals under house arrest or arbitrarily detained, and end the recruitment of children.

In parallel, Houthi militias, with backing from Iran, continued violating other stipulations mandated by the UN-brokered truce across the strategic Red Sea coastal province of Hodeidah.

Affiliated gunmen have shelled populated residential villages in Hodeidah and its southern administrations, as well as positions held by the government National Army.

On Wednesday, Houthi militants mobilized large reinforcements south of the Hays district, south of Hodeidah, and set up many checkpoints, also in violation of the agreement.

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