...By Solomon Thomas for TDPel Media.
A prisoner exchange involving hundreds of prisoners from Yemen’s ongoing civil war began on Friday after talks aimed at reaching a truce ended with an agreement to hold a second round of talks.
The first plane carrying 322 prisoners from the Houthi group took off from Sanaa, the rebel-held capital, for the government-controlled Aden.
The exchange will see the release of 887 prisoners over the course of three days.
The move comes a month after Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to re-establish ties, leading to a wider thaw across the region.
The Houthi group will release 181 detainees, including Saudi and Sudanese prisoners, in exchange for 706 held by government forces.
Among those set to be released by the Houthi group are Major General Mahmud al-Subaihi, Yemen’s former defence minister, and Major General Nasser Mansur Hadi, the ex-president’s brother.
The biggest prisoner swap since 2020 comes after a delegation from Saudi Arabia, which launched a military intervention in support of the Yemeni government in 2015, held talks with the Houthi group in a bid to end the conflict.
The Saudi delegation left Sanaa on Thursday without a finalised truce but with an agreement to meet again, according to sources from the Houthi and Yemeni governments.
A UN-brokered truce that officially expired in October is still largely holding, while diplomatic efforts to renew a ceasefire have increased.
The Houthi group seized control of Sanaa in 2014, forcing the internationally recognised government to flee and triggering the Saudi-led military intervention in the following year.
The war has led to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with hundreds of thousands of people killed by direct and indirect causes.
The prisoner exchange was sealed during talks in Switzerland just days after the announcement of the Saudi-Iran thaw.
Since the rapprochement, delegations from the two countries have exchanged visits to pave the way for the reopening of diplomatic missions.
Later on Friday, nine Arab countries are due to meet in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to discuss Syria’s 12-year suspension from the Arab League over its civil war.