Published:  10:58 PM, 12 January 2020

Yemen's gov't, southern council swap 53 prisoners under Saudi-brokered deal

Yemen's gov't, southern council swap 53 prisoners under Saudi-brokered deal

Yemen's government and the opposition Southern Transitional Council (STC) on Sunday started exchanging about 53 prisoners under a Saudi Arabia-brokered deal in the south of the country.

The prisoner swap deal was signed between the two Yemeni warring rivals in the Saudi capital Riyadh last November, a local military official said on condition of anonymity.

"Nearly 33 prisoners of the STC were released from the government's jails in Shabwa Province. In exchange, 20 prisoners affiliated with the government were also released from the STC's jails," the source noted.

All these prisoners were received by the forces of the Saudi-led Arab coalition operating in Yemen, according to the official.

On Thursday, also supervised by Saudi Arabia, the Yemeni government signed an agreement with the STC about the mechanism of mutual troops withdrawal from the country's southern turbulent region.

The new agreement specified 20 days, starting Jan. 11, for the withdrawal of all the STC's military units and government forces stationed in the country's southern regions, including Abyan and Shabwa, according to the Yemeni source.

Last year, Saudi Arabia persuaded the STC and the Yemeni government to hold reconciliation talks, which succeeded in reaching a deal to form a new technocrat cabinet of no more than 24 ministers.

But numerous obstacles prevented the implementation of the deal which included forming a new government and achieving permanent stability in southern Yemen.

The deal also asked for the return of the exiled Yemeni government to Aden and the unification of all military units under the authority of the country's interior and defense ministries.

The Saudi-brokered deal excluded the Iran-backed Houthis who are still controlling the capital Sanaa and other northern provinces of the war-torn Arab country.

The impoverished Yemen has been locked in a civil war since late 2014 when the Houthi rebels overran much of the country and seized all northern areas including Sanaa.

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