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Yemeni Govt. Says Houthis Responsible for Failure of Prisoner Swap Talks in Amman

Yemeni Govt. Says Houthis Responsible for Failure of Prisoner Swap Talks in Amman

Tuesday, 23 February, 2021 - 08:30
Previous negotiations between the Yemeni government and Houthis in the presence of UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths. AFP file photo

Yemen’s internationally recognized government on Monday accused the Iran-backed Houthi militias of sabotaging prisoner swap talks in the Jordanian capital, Amman. Negotiations, which lasted over a month, concluded with no deal.


“They (Houthis) invented many flimsy excuses and justifications to thwart the negotiations,” said Undersecretary of Human Rights Ministry Majed Fadael, who is also a member of the government’s team negotiating the swap.


Fadael, in an official statement, pointed out that talks were relaunched to implement the second part of the Amman Agreement (3), which stipulates the exchange of 301 prisoners on both sides.


“Houthis argued that they don’t want talks to succeed because their militias will force their way into Marib governorate and free the group’s detainees,” said Fadael.


The negotiator went on to list some of the obdurately placed obstructions Houthis used to thwart talks.


“They requested names that we knew nothing of,” Fadael noted, complaining that Houthis also refused to release journalists and civilian abductees (academics, aged and sick people) despite the government delegation's efforts.


Fadael urged the international community and the office of the UN Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, to pressure Houthis into respecting human rights when dealing with prisoners and detainees.


The UN, for its part, said that talks on a possible prisoner exchange between Yemen’s warring parties concluded Sunday with no deal after a month of wrangling.


“I am disappointed that this round of talks did not amount to what we saw in Switzerland last September which resulted in the historic release of 1,056 detainees,” said Griffiths in a statement.


“I urge the parties to continue their discussions and consultations, conclude the implementation of what they agreed to and expand the arrangements to release more detainees soon.”


Yemen’s legitimate government and the militias had agreed in 2018 to swap some 15,000 detainees.


In October, hundreds of fighters from both sides headed home in the first large-scale handover since the war began, under a deal struck the previous month in Switzerland.


But talks led by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross in Jordan since January 24 have failed to bring about another swap, the UN said Sunday.


The two sides, however, “committed to keep discussing the parameters of a future expanded release operation,” it added.


“I reiterate my call for the unconditional release of all sick, wounded, elderly and children detainees as well as detained civilians, including women and journalists,” Griffiths said.


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