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UN: Arab coalition frees, returns seven Houthi prisoners

Published: Updated:

Saudi Arabia released seven prisoners it was holding from Yemen’s Houthi militias, who were flown to Sanaa on Wednesday by the Red Cross, the day after a Saudi prisoner freed by the Houthis arrived in Riyadh.

The swap comes as Yemen’s warring parties are still hammering out details of a larger prisoner exchange that they agreed last month as a confidence-building gesture at the first major peace talks of the nearly four-year-old war.

The UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, welcomed the release and said he hoped it would encourage the rapid implementation of the larger prisoner swap.

“The [special envoy] is very encouraged by this positive spirit from the two parties,” his office said on Twitter.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which provided the planes for both the freed Saudi and the seven freed Yemenis, said in a statement it had acted as a neutral intermediary and was not involved in negotiations over the releases.

The United Nations is pushing for the warring parties to carry out the agreed prisoner exchange and implement a ceasefire in the main port city of Hodeidah to pave the way for a second round of discussions.