Yemen’s warring sides have agreed to a broad prisoner swap, sitting down in the same room together for the first time in years at United Nations-sponsored peace talks in Sweden.
Hopes were high that the talks wouldn’t deteriorate into further violence as in the past, and that the prisoner exchange would be an important first step toward building confidence between highly distrustful adversaries.
The conflict pits the internationally recognised Government, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition, against Shia rebels known as Houthis.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths said the two sides have signalled they are serious about de-escalating the fighting through calls they’ve made in recent weeks, and urged them to work to further reduce the violence in the Arab world’s poorest nation.
“I’m also pleased to announce the signing of an agreement on the exchange of prisoners, detainees, the missing, the forcibly detained and individuals placed under house arrest,” Griffiths said from the venue. “It will allow thousands of families to be reunited.”
The international Red Cross said it would oversee the prisoner exchange, which is expected to take weeks.