Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government are not resuming new UN-backed negotiations in Amman months after a massive prisoner swap.
Warring parties in Yemen have started new UN-backed negotiations in Jordan over a prisoner swap, officials said.
Sunday’s meeting in Amman between the Saudi-backed government and the Houthi rebels, who have been at war for nearly six years, came days after the United States designated the rebel group a “terrorist organization.” Foreign policy, a move the UN warned could undermine peace efforts and worsen the already dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
It also came more than three months after the two sides completed the largest exchange of the war.
A UN-chartered plane flew four Houthi officials from Yemen’s capital Sana’a to Amman on Saturday. The government also sent four representatives, according to Mohammad Fadayel, the head of the government prisoners’ committee.
The talks are said to aim to free 300 prisoners, including senior officials such as President Abd-Rabbu’s brother Mansour Hadi, whose internationally recognized government was deposed by the Houthis in late 2014.
In a statement on Sunday, UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths urged the rally in Amman to prioritize “the immediate and unconditional release of all sick, injured, elderly and children detained as well as all civilians arbitrarily detained, including women ”.
Talks in Amman are being facilitated by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, Griffiths’ office said.
They are part of confidence-building measures aimed at relaunching the peace negotiations that were last held in Sweden in December 2018, when the two sides agreed to exchange 15,000 detainees. Some 1,000 prisoners were exchanged last year.
The war in Yemen began in 2014 after the Houthis took over much of the country and invaded Sana’a.
The conflict escalated in March 2015 when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with support from the United States, assembled a military coalition to try to restore Hadi’s government.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and the UN has declared the conflict to be the root of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
In November, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Yemen was “in imminent danger of experiencing the worst famine the world has known in decades.”
The conflict Iran has been at a military stalemate for years, but the Houthis still control much of Yemen.
The administration of new US President Joe Biden said on Friday it had begun a revision of the designation of the rebels, which took effect on January 19, the day before Donald Trump left the White House.
Dozens of civil society groups have urged Biden to reverse the decision, saying the designation “would prevent the delivery of critical humanitarian aid to millions of innocent people.”
He is also expected to dissuade outside actors from engaging in many transactions with Houthi authorities, including bank transfers and the purchase of food and fuel.