Saudi Arabia And Yemen Exchange Prisoners – OpEd
A total of 19 prisoners from the Coalition Forces, including 16 Saudis and three Sudanese, arrived at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh on Saturday.
This was under a major prisoner swap deal in which 250 Houthi prisoners also left Abha International Airport for Sanaa, according to Brig. Gen. Turki Al-Maliki, spokesman of the Coalition Forces to Support Legitimacy in Yemen.
This was the second phase of the prisoner swap involving about 800 prisoners of war, initiated by the legitimate government and the Houthis in Yemen.
Brig. Gen Al-Maliki said the prisoner exchange process is of great concern for the political and military command of the Coalition to end the prisoner file and exchange all prisoners and detainees.
He also appreciated the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary General to Yemen Hans Grundberg for supporting and making the swap of prisoners and detainees a great success.
The prisoners who landed at Riyadh airport were received by the Chief of the General Staff Gen. Fayyad Al-Ruwaili, Deputy Chief of the General Staff and Commander of the Joint Forces Lt. Gen. Mutlaq Al-Azima, commanders of the armed forces branches, Head of the Military Wing at the Ministry of National Guard Maj. Gen. Muhammad Al-Qahtani, and Military Attaché at the Sudanese embassy in the Kingdom Brig. Gen. Muhammad Abdul Wahed Absher.
The release of these prisoners was the second phase of the three-day prisoner swap between the legitimate Yemeni government and the Houthis that began on Friday.
A flight carrying 120 former detainees took off from the city of Abha on Saturday. The operation will continue on Saturday and Sunday to exchange about 800 prisoners from both sides, with operating 15 flights to six airports in Yemen.
Majid Fadael, spokesman of the government delegation to the prisoners’ negotiations, member of the negotiating delegation and undersecretary at the Ministry of Human Rights, said in a statement on his Twitter account that the second phase of the operation will take place through the airports of Mocha-Sanaa, Abha-Sanaa, and Sanaa-Riyadh, and it will be on board six flights operated by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The first phase of the exchange of prisoners between the two sides began Friday when the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) planes transported 318 prisoners to and from the Yemeni capital Sanaa and Aden.
Among the 69 prisoners, released by the Houthi group, included former Defense Minister Mahmoud Al-Subaihi and Nasser Mansour Hadi, the brother of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
The Yemeni government released 249 prisoners who were transferred from Aden to Sanaa on board two flights.
Meanwhile the Yemeni Minister of Interior Ibrahim Ali Ahmed Haydan said that this operation, which took place at the initiative of Saudi Arabia and the Coalition to Support Legitimacy, is the largest ever prisoner swap in years.
He emphasized that the prisoner exchange will continue to include all prisoners after the upcoming Eid Al-Fitr. “There has been greater understanding regarding the peace process after the exchange of prisoners,” he pointed out.
It is noteworthy that in the last major exchange that took place in October 2020, more than 1,050 prisoners were released and they returned to their regions or countries, according to a report of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The release operations are the result of talks concluded on 20 March, 2023, in Bern, Switzerland, where the parties to the conflict in Yemen finalized the plan for the release. The ICRC co-chaired these meetings with the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen.