Yemen: Saudi-led coalition says it released 200 Houthi prisoners

Coalition spokesman says move aimed at paving way for larger, long-delayed prisoner swap agreed upon last year.

Houthi supporters
Supporters of Houthis during a march to mark the fifth anniversary of the rebels' control of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa [File: Anadolu Agency]

A Saudi-UAE-led military coalition has said it has released 200 Houthi prisoners to support peace efforts aimed at ending the nearly five-year war in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia’s state-run news agency quoted coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki as saying on Tuesday that the move was aimed at paving the way for a larger and long-delayed prisoner swap agreed upon last year.

The coalition also said in a statement carried on the Saudi state media that it would ease restrictions on Yemeni airspace to allow flights out of the Houthi-held capital, Sanaa, to transport people requiring medical treatments abroad.

The two sides signed a United Nations-brokered peace deal in Sweden last December, but are yet to implement it.

“The coalition leadership is keen to continue supporting efforts to resolve the crisis in Yemen and to push forward the Stockholm agreement, including the deal related to the exchange of prisoners,” al-Malki said.

The Houthis had in September unilaterally released 350 prisoners, including three Saudis, after extending an offer to halt cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia if the coalition ended air attacks on Yemen.

The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of Sanaa by the Houthi rebels who have now taken control of much of the country’s north.

The Saudi-UAE-led coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis overthrew from power the internationally-recognised government in Sanaa, which the coalition seeks to restore.

The five-year civil war has left tens of thousands of people dead, most of them civilians, according to relief organisations, and has pushed millions to the brink of famine in what the UN calls the worst humanitarian crisis anywhere in the world.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies