Yemen demands Al Houthis free prisoners ahead of talks

Bin Dagher demands Al Houthis “facilitate the arrival of humanitarian aid” in provinces where they control airports and ports

Riyadh: Yemen’s government has said that it will return to the negotiating table with Iran-backed Al Houthi militants if they release all the prisoners they are holding.

“It is necessary to show goodwill before the start of new talks through the release of all the detainees in their prisons,” Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmad Bin Dagher said at talks with United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths in Riyadh, the Saba news agency reported.

He also demanded for Al Houthis to “facilitate the arrival of humanitarian aid” in provinces where they control airports and ports.

UN envoy to Yemen Griffiths has been trying for weeks to restart talks on ending the conflict between Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and Al Houthis that has killed nearly 10,000 people in the past three years.

Bin Dagher told Griffiths that any talks would have to lead to a withdrawal of Al Houthi forces from the capital Sana’a and other towns under their control, and the group’s disarmament, Saba reported.

Pro-government forces backed up by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia have paused their offensive on Hodeida port in a bid they say to give peace efforts a chance.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash in the United Arab Emirates, whose forces have been spearheading the Hodeida assault, warned that troops could “liberate” the port city if efforts fail.

A Saudi-led coalition entered the Yemen war in 2015 just months after an Al Houthi coup ousted the internationally-recognised Yemeni government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Since then it has rolled back the militants’ advances in the country, recapturing 85 per cent of Yemeni territory.

However, major population centeres are still under Al Houthi control.

The coalition hopes that by liberating Hodeida, it will deprive the militants of a crucial source of aid and weapons which is smuggled in by Iran.

Many Iranian-made ballistic missiles have been fired into Saudi Arabia by Al Houthi militants which Riyadh has dubbed an ‘act of war’.


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