The Houthis and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government have agreed on a major prisoner swap that will release over 800 detainees after the two sides held 10 days of talks in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Houthis said they agreed to release 181 prisoners, including 15 Saudis and three Sudanese. In exchange, the Saudi-backed government will release 706 people. The deal was brokered by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The prisoner swap comes as the Saudis and the Houthis are engaged in separate negotiations that are being mediated by Oman to bring an end to the war in Yemen. Hans Grundberg, the UN special envoy for Yemen, said the prisoner exchange deal was another sign that things are “moving in the right direction” when it comes to ending the war.
Grundberg has also welcomed the surprise deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran to normalize relations that was brokered by China. After the agreement was announced, Grundberg said there was more momentum going toward a Yemen peace deal.
The Saudis and Houthis agreed to a ceasefire at the end of March 2022 that lasted until October 2022. Since the truce expired, there have still been no recorded Saudi airstrikes in Yemen or any Houthi attacks inside Saudi Arabia. The blockade that has been enforced by the US-backed Saudi-led coalition since 2015 has also been eased but not fully lifted.
This Saturday, March 25, will mark the eighth anniversary of the Saudi-led coalition intervening in Yemen to fight against the Houthis with the full backing of the Obama administration. Since 2015, the war has killed at least 377,000 people, more than half of which died due to starvation and disease caused by the blockade and the coalition’s brutal bombing campaign.