Warring Yemeni Parties Agree to Prisoner Swap
Yemen’s two main warring parties, the Houthis and the government of Abd Rabbu-Mansur Hadi, have agreed to exchange 16,000 prisoners in January 2019 and have also agreed on a ceasefire in Hodeidah.
The prisoners swap agreement was reached On Tuesday, Dec. 11, in Sweden, where a delegation representing the Houthis met a delegation representing Hadi at the behest of the United Nations, which is seeking a peaceful solution to end the Yemen War.
The Houthis and Hadi’s representatives also agreed to a ceasefire in the port city of Hodeidah.
A majority of humanitarian aid given to Yemen enters the country through Hodeidah, a port city controlled by the Houthis. For the past few months, access to Hodeidah has been jeopardized by a Saudi-led siege of the city, which risks exacerbating Yemen’s grave famine and a cholera epidemic.
Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition against the Houthis, accused Iran of sending weaponry to the Houthis through Hodeidah. Iran denies the allegation and says it does not support the Houthis in any way.
It is unclear whether Saudi Arabia backs the UN-brokered prison swap between the Houthis and Hadi’s forces, but Gulf Arab states are expected to discuss the Yemen War during an annual summit on Sunday in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia’s role in continuing the Yemen War has come under intense international scrutiny ever since the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside Istanbul’s Saudi consulate. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is accused of having ordered the journalist’s killing.
President Donald Trump’s administration continues to stand by Saudi Arabia. He has denied any connection between Bin Salman and Khashoggi’s death despite the CIA’s claim that the Crown Prince was involved in the murder. Trump also refuses to withdraw support for the Saudi military coalition operating in Yemen, disregarding mounting pressure to halt support for a regime involved in the deaths of Yemeni civilians.
However, many members of Congress disagree with Trump’s continued support for Saudi Arabia. On Thursday, December 13, the U.S. Senate voted in favor of ending military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s efforts in Yemen and holding Mohammed Bin Salman directly responsible for Khashoggi’s murder. Trump may veto the resolution, but its existence indicates that many U.S. politicians do not want the American government to continue its unequivocal support of a regime that appears to have much innocent blood on its hands.