Monday, May 20, 2024

Yemeni govt to attend new round of prisoner exchange talks with Houthi rebels

The Yemeni government has announced that it agreed to attend a new round of UN-sponsored talks with Houthi rebels on exchange of prisoners, including individuals abducted by Houthis.

“The main objective of the upcoming talks” starting Friday in Jordan’s capital Amman “would be to determine the fate of forcibly abducted individuals, such as the prominent politician Mohammed Qahtan, as well as other detainees,” Yahya Kazman, chief of the negotiation committee of the internationally-recognised Yemeni government, said in a brief press statement on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, the Yemeni government had rejected participation in future prisoner exchange negotiations with the Houthi rebels, citing the rebels’ refusal to disclose the location of Qahtan and their denial of visitation rights to his family, Xinhua news agency reported.

Qahtan, a prominent Yemeni politician of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islah party, was abducted by the Houthis eight years ago in the capital Sanaa.

The Houthis have remained unresponsive to repeated appeals from the United Nations, local and international human rights groups, as well as the politician’s family for access to Qahtan, according to the government.

UN-sponsored negotiations between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels in March successfully led to the release of nearly 900 prisoners in April, marking the second largest prisoner exchange between the warring sides since a civil war broke out more than eight years ago.

High-profile figures, including Nasser Mansour Hadi, the brother of former Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and Mahmoud Al Subeihi, the country’s former Defence Minister, were among those who were freed.

Yemen has been embroiled in the devastating civil war since 2014, with the Houthi rebels fighting against the internationally-recognised government and a Saudi Arabia-led coalition allied with the government.

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