The Saudi-backed government forces in Yemen and the rebel Houthis completed a three-day prisoner exchange on April 16. Close to 900 prisoners have been exchanged between the two warring sides through mid-April. The exchange is the result of an agreement reached in Switzerland in March as part of a round of ongoing peace and reconciliation talks between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia—the primary supporter of the Yemeni government.
The historic peace talks are seen as a result of the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia brokered by China. A resolution toward ending the years-long war in Yemen was reportedly one of the key issues in the Saudi-Iran rapprochement.
The prisoner exchange has been widely recognized as an important step towards peace in a war that has already claimed over 1.5 million lives, according to the Houthi-backed administration in Sana’a, and displaced millions. As a consequence of the Saudi-imposed blockade, millions of people, including at least 2.2 million children, have also suffered from acute malnutrition and hunger.
UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, who helped broker the prisoner exchange agreement in Switzerland, commented, “This release operation comes at a time of hope for Yemen as a reminder that constructive dialogue and mutual compromises are powerful tools capable of achieving great outcomes. Today, hundreds of Yemeni families get to celebrate Eid with their loved ones because the parties negotiated and reached an agreement. I hope this spirit is reflected in ongoing efforts to advance a comprehensive political solution.”