The United Nations said Yemen’s warring sides agreed Sunday to exchange more than 1,000 prisoners, marking the first phase of a prisoner-release plan reached earlier this year.
The UN mission in Yemen said the legitimate government and the Houthi militias agreed “to immediately release a first group of 1,081 conflict-related detainees and prisoners, in accordance with the lists of agreed-upon names.”
“Today is an important day for over a thousand families who can expect to welcome back their loved ones hopefully very soon,” said the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths.
In an emailed statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said he was happy with this achievement and hoped that the "unprecedented" swap would help provide immediate relief to more than 1,000 Yemeni families.
Sunday’s deal came at the conclusion of a week-long meeting in Glion, Switzerland that was co-chaired by Griffiths’ office and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Yemen’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdullah al-Hadrami welcomed the deal on Twitter and called for its full implementation without delay. He said most of the prisoners the government wants released are “civilians, activists and forcibly disappeared,” in addition to four top officials detained since the beginning of the war.
The UN said the deal was built on a plan both sides agreed to in February.
Griffiths urged both parties to “move forward immediately with the release and to spare no effort in building upon this momentum to swiftly agree to releasing more detainees.”
“We have no time to waste, releasing the 1,081 individuals would and indeed will represent the largest release operation during the history of the conflict in Yemen,” he said.
He said the two sides agreed to meet again to discuss more releases, including top government officials covered by a UN Security Council resolution.