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Yemen says prisoner swap deal to be implemented in three stages in two weeks’ time

Yemeni prisoners chant slogans during their arrival after being released by the Saudi-led coalition at the Sana’a international airport, on October 15, 2020. (Photo by AP)

Yemen’s National Salvation Government says the process of implementing a prisoner swap deal, which was recently agreed in the Swiss city of Geneva, is scheduled to take place in two weeks’ time.

Abdul Qader al-Murtada, the head of the National Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs, said in a press conference at Sana'a International Airport on Tuesday that the exchange would take place in “three stages” starting on April 10.

He added that the prisoner exchange with the Saudi-backed regime of the country’s ousted President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Saudi-led coalition would.

Murtada, the leading delegate of the popular Ansarullah resistance movement to the talks, said the prisoner exchange will include 706 Yemeni prisoners in exchange for 181 prisoners from the other side, and would be implemented by the Red Cross.

"We hoped that the deal would be greater than what was agreed upon, but the situation of the other party did not allow that, as they were several parties, so we could not reach a comprehensive and complete agreement with them that includes all prisoners and all detainees from all sides," the Yemeni official said.

Murtada stressed that during the recent talks in Geneva, it was agreed to form committees from both sides to visit prisons in the capital Sana'a and the central province of Ma'rib in preparation for a subsequent round in May, under the auspices of the United Nations.

“Preparations are currently underway for a solemn welcome for the prisoners, befitting their sacrifices and patience,” Murtada added, expressing his hope that the other party would abide by what has been agreed upon.

The deal reached in Switzerland on March 20 was a follow-up to the Detainees’ Exchange Agreement, a 2018 pact that called on both parties to release all those detained in relation to the conflict “without any exceptions or conditions.”

The deal was part of a wider UN-mediated deal that put an end to months of fighting over Yemen's Red Sea port of al-Hudaydah four years ago. Since then, the two sides have released many prisoners with a major exchange taking place in October 2020 and involving more than 1,000 detainees from both sides.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — the closest allies of the US in the region after the Israeli regime — have been waging the war on Yemen since March 2015.

The invasion has been seeking to change Yemen’s ruling structure in favor of the impoverished country’s former Riyadh- and Washington-friendly rulers and crush the popular Ansarullah resistance movement. The Saudi-led coalition has failed to meet any of its objectives.

The war, which has been enjoying unstinting arms, logistical, and political support on the part of the United States, has killed hundreds of thousands of Yemenis and turned the entire country into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Yemen’s defense forces, which feature the country’s army and its allied Popular Committees, have, however, vowed not to lay down their arms until the country’s complete liberation from the scourge of the aggression.

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