TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - Last Month, the two sides signed an agreement for a partial ceasefire at the end of UN-brokered peace negotiations, mediated by Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen, in Rimbo, north of the Swedish capital Stockholm.
According to the agreement, the Houthi fighters, who are in control of the port city of Hudaydah, and former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s allied militia together with Saudi-led forces — who have placed the city under a tight siege since June — must withdraw from the port and hand it over to UN observers.
The two sides further agreed to exchange prisoners of war and issued a statement of understanding on the southwestern city of Ta’izz, another flashpoint area in the war-ravaged country.
As for the prisoner swap, Jordan hosted a round of talks between the warring sides, upon a request from Griffiths, the first session of which was held on Wednesday, when the two sides met separately with the mediators and submitted lists of prisoners they wanted to be released.
On Thursday, the Houthis and Hadi’s delegation were expected to meet face-to-face in Amman to hammer out the details of the swap and the circumstances of its implementation.
The two sides reached an agreement on prisoner swap, which could involve up to 15,000 detainees from both sides, in principle as a confidence-building measure ahead of the December negotiations in Sweden.
The second session of talks in Jordan was held a day after the UN Security Council unanimously approved the deployment of up to 75 monitors to oversee the truce in Hudaydah, a lifeline for the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid.
According to the UN, the fragile ceasefire has largely held since it came into force in December, but there have been delays in the agreed withdrawal of the Houthis and Hadi’s forces.
The limited ceasefire and withdrawal, if implemented, could offer a potential breakthrough in a nearly four-year Saudi-led war that has brought Yemen to the brink of starvation and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Leading a coalition of its allies, Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall Hadi, who had resigned amid popular discontent and fled to Riyadh, and to eliminate the Houthis, who have been running state affairs and defending Yemeni people against the Saudi brutal campaign during the nearly past four years.
The massive aggression, which has failed to achieve any of its goals, has reportedly killed over 56,000 people. It has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories.
The UN officials have already said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.
With the war drawn into a deadlock, Saudi Arabia is virtually mired in a quagmire, having faced repeated military backlashes in Yemen and reprisal attacks inside its own territories.