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Yemenis Cast Doubts over Houthi Commitment to Prisoner Swap Deal

Yemenis Cast Doubts over Houthi Commitment to Prisoner Swap Deal

Tuesday, 29 September, 2020 - 05:00
UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths during a meeting with Yemeni government and Houthi delegations in Switzerland. (AFP)

Yemeni politicians and activists criticized the partial agreement reached by the legitimate government delegation and Houthi regarding the prisoner swap, deeming it as a gain for the Iran-backed militias and a minor achievement for UN envoy Martin Griffiths.

Griffiths had been working for nearly two years on this file.

Despite the deal being welcomed on Arab and International levels, many Yemenis doubted that Houthis will commit to its terms. They also voiced their disappointment, saying the deal falls short of their expectations, especially since it does not cover the release of Houthi-captured journalists facing a death sentence and the four officials mentioned in the UN Security Council resolution.

“As a humanitarian step, the deal is good. But it is less than what it should be,” Yemeni political analyst Fares al-Beil told Asharq Al-Awsat, noting that the deal was supposed to include an “all for all” stipulation, even if the release of all prisoners was to take place through different stages.

Stressing that Griffiths had reached a political deadlock on finding a settlement for the Yemeni crisis, Beil said that the diplomat had tackled the prisoner swap file out of desperation.

Beil, however, noted that the deal is beneficial to both of Yemen’s warring sides.

“The Houthis especially benefit from the swap given that they have been experiencing losses in the battlegrounds in Marib,” he said.

He added that Griffiths is seeking to establish a so-called joint agreement to be signed by both the Houthis and legitimate government, and the prisoner swap deal paves the way towards achieving such an arrangement.

As for the current deal’s future, he warned that it is fragile given the Houthis’ poor history in respecting commitments.

“The Houthis will continue to put a spoke in the deal’s wheel, they have always been capricious towards agreements they supposedly have already committed to,” he remarked.

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