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Warring parties in Yemen to trade prisoners

CAIRO — Yemen’s warring sides have agreed to implement a long-delayed and major prisoner swap, the United Nations said on Sunday, in a sign that talks to end the disastrous war between the country’s internationally recognized government and its Houthi rebels could be making progress.

It would be the “first official large-scale” exchange of its kind since the beginning of the conflict in the Arab World’s poorest country, according to the U.N.

The prisoner swap deal was seen as a breakthrough during 2018 peace talks in Sweden. The Houthis and the internationally recognized government agreed then to several confidence-building measures, including a cease-fire in the strategic port city of Hodeida.

Implementation of the tentative peace plan stumbled amid ongoing military offensives and a deep-seated distrust between the two sides.

The conflict also has been a theater for the regional rivalry between Iran, which backs the Houthi rebels, and Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni government.

The U.N. mission in Yemen said that both the rebels and Yemeni government had decided to “immediately begin with exchanging the lists for the upcoming release” of prisoners. Sunday’s statement came after seven days of meetings between the two sides in Jordan’s capital, Amman.

“Today the parties showed us that even with the growing challenges on the ground, the confidence they have been building can still yield positive results,” the U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths said.