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The New Arab

Houthi rebels, Saudi exchange prisoners ahead of peace talks

Calm has reigned over the Saudi-Yemeni border where forces have clashed for years [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 March, 2016

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Another prisoner swap has taken place between Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia just two weeks prior to a planned ceasefire in a move seen as confidence-building between warring parties.

Nine Saudis were released by Houthi rebels in exchange for 109 Yemenis ahead of the planned peace talks next month, the Saudi-led coalition said on Monday.

"Nine Saudi prisoners have been recovered and 109 Yemenis who were arrested in the military operations zone" near the border have been handed over, the coalition said in a statement.

The move comes within the framework of the "first steps towards understanding and humanitarianism," Houthi spokesman, Mohammed Abdulsalam said in a Facebook post, two weeks short of the planned ceasefire on April 10.

Earlier this month, tribal mediations are thought to have led to the exchange of a Saudi soldier and seven Yemenis in the first deal of its kind since Riyadh launched a military offensive against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Though no official announcement has been made, the prisoner exchanges follow a secret meeting between Houthis and Saudi Arabia that took place on March 7 that saw a delegation of the rebels visit the kingdom for the first time.

High-level sources told The New Arab that the visit followed an unannounced agreement for a truce in the border areas between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, which has seen relative calm after years of clashes.

The coalition statement did not specify whether the latest prisoner exchange involved combatants or civilians.

Last week, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed announced that warring parties have agreed to a ceasefire from midnight on April 10, to be followed by peace talks in Kuwait on April 18.

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