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

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora