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Yemen warring parties to discuss prisoners release


UNITED NATIONS: Delegations from Yemen’s warring parties are due to meet in Switzerland this week for talks on a UN-backed prisoner exchange deal, which UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths said on Tuesday he hopes will result in the release of some detainees.

Griffiths told the UN Security Council that “logistical arrangements permitting” the talks would resume in Switzerland this week between the two delegations. A UN source said the talks were due to start on Thursday.

“The parties committed to release conflict-related prisoners and detainees back in 2018 in Stockholm, and furthered their discussions to fulfil that commitment in Amman earlier this year,” Griffiths told the council. “What I hope is that this meeting will actually result in the release of some prisoners.”

Mohammed Abdulsalam, chief negotiator of the Ansar Allah movement, said his group’s committee is set to leave Sanaa on a UN plane. The Ansar Allah and Yemen’s government are trying to reach an agreement to end a years-long war and ease a humanitarian crisis in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country.

Griffiths told the 15-member UN Security Council he sent an “advanced draft” of a ceasefire deal to Yemen’s warring parties last week and “now is the time for the parties to swiftly conclude the negotiations.”

He also said the political importance of gas-rich Marib — the last government stronghold where fighting has raged over the past year — should not be underestimated and that “military shifts and consequences and events in Marib have ripple effects on dynamics of the conflict across Yemen.”

Meanwhile, two senior UN officials voiced concerns about the worsening situation in Yemen, warning of the risk of famine and slamming several donors, for failing to deliver on their pledges.

Fighting in Yemen over the last six years has claimed tens of thousands of lives, mostly civilians, and sparked what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths told the Security Council that Yemen could “slip back away from the road to peace.” He cited “increased fighting, greater humanitarian needs and the Covid-19 pandemic” as among the factors in play.

Griffiths said he had sent all warring parties a draft of a “joint declaration” reflecting what had been said in previous rounds of talks.

“Now is the time for the parties to swiftly conclude the negotiations and finalise the Joint Declaration,” he said.

The internationally recognised government in Yemen has been battling the Ansar Allah since 2014, when the fighters seized much of the north including the capital Sanaa. — Agencies

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