News / Middle East

    Saudi Arabia, Yemen Houthis Swap Prisoners, Raising Hopes of Peace Talks

    FILE - Houthi fighters ride on a patrol truck as they chant slogans during a tribal gathering in Sana'a, Yemen, Dec. 14, 2015.
    FILE - Houthi fighters ride on a patrol truck as they chant slogans during a tribal gathering in Sana'a, Yemen, Dec. 14, 2015.
    Reuters

    A Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said on Wednesday it had exchanged prisoners with its Houthi opponents and also welcomed a pause in combat on
    the border, prompting hopes of a push to end the year-long war that has killed some 6,000 people.

    Riyadh's confirmation of a rare confidence-building measure in the conflict came a day after senior Yemeni officials said a delegation from the Houthis, who are allies of the kingdom's arch foe Iran, was in Saudi Arabia for talks to end the war.

    However, both the Saudi Arabian and Yemeni foreign ministers later said any formal negotiations to end the fighting could only take place under the auspices of the United Nations and must include Yemen's internationally recognized government.

    Riyadh and a coalition of Arab states entered Yemen's civil war a year ago in an attempt to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after the Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh ousted him from power.

    The Saudi state news agency SPA said Yemeni tribal mediators had facilitated the exchange of a Saudi lieutenant captured by the Houthis for seven Yemeni prisoners held in the kingdom.

    The agency gave no further details, but some Yemeni media have reported that the exchange happened on the border between the two countries earlier this week.

    Quoting a Saudi statement, SPA also said: "The leadership of the coalition forces welcomed the continuation of a state of calm along the border ... which contributes to arriving at a political solution."

    After meeting his Gulf Arab and Yemeni counterparts, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said he backed U.N. special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's efforts to resolve the crisis based on U.N. resolution 2216, which calls on the Houthis to return power to Hadi's government.

    However, he added in a news conference that the lull was important to deliver aid and medical supplies to people in northern regions of Yemen.

    Saleh's General People's Congress party said in a statement it supported any efforts to bring peace to Yemen.

    Houthis snub Iran

    Yemen's conflict has fallen into a stalemate, in which the Houthis still control the capital Sana’a and other major cities in central Yemen, while its guerrilla forces have shelled and harassed Saudi forces along the rugged northern frontier.

    In what could be a goodwill message to Saudi Arabia, a senior Houthi official sought to distance his group from Riyadh's main regional foe Tehran, telling Iranian officials in a Facebook posting to stay out of Yemen's conflict.

    "Officials in the Islamic Republic of Iran must be silent and leave aside the exploitation of the Yemen file," said Yousef al-Feshi, a member of the Revolutionary Committee which runs  areas of Yemen held by the Houthis.

    Asked about the posting, Jubeir said he had not seen it but that it appeared to be a "positive" statement.

    Sunni power Saudi Arabia has long accused Shi'ite Iran of trying to expand its influence in Yemen by helping the Houthis, who hail from the Zaydi branch of Shi'ite Islam.

    The comments by Feshi, who is seen as close to the Houthis' overall leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, were the first snub by the group to Iran, long seen as its main supporter.

    On Tuesday, Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of Iran's armed forces, suggested that Tehran could send military advisers to help the Houthis in Yemen just as it has done in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

    The coalition spokesman, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri, said Yemeni tribal chiefs had asked for a period of calm to let humanitarian supplies pass through but he declined to be drawn into commenting on the reported visit by a Houthi delegation.

    "It is too early to focus on those who are carrying out this role," Asseri told the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV. "Let's focus on the result, that there be benefit to our brothers who are affected by what the Houthi militias are carrying out. We do not want to talk about individuals."

    Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdelmalek al-Mekhlafi said the talks in Saudi Arabia were "on the intelligence level about prisoners and other issues", adding that peace talks could only happen in accordance with the U.N. resolution.

    "This is the only way forward with political negotiations. Anything else is operational and not political," Mekhlafi said after the meeting with his Gulf Arab counterparts in Riyadh.

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora