Yemen warring parties agree to swap prisoners

YEMEN - Yemen's Saudi-backed government and the Huthi rebels have agreed to exchange hundreds of prisoners ahead of planned peace talks in Sweden, sources said Tuesday.

The deal, struck during a visit by UN envoy Martin Griffiths, covers between 1,500 and 2,000 members of the pro-government forces and between 1,000 and 1,500 rebels, government official Hadi Haig told AFP.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it "welcomes the agreement between Yemeni parties for the release, transfer and repatriation of conflict-related detainees".

"This is one step in the right direction towards the building of mutual trust among Yemeni communities," spokesperson Mirella Hodeib told AFP, adding that the ICRC would oversee and facilitate the exchange.

A Saudi-led coalition has been waging a war in Yemen since March 2015 to push back the Iran-backed Huthis and restore to power President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who lives in Saudi exile.

The UN hopes to bring the two sides together for peace talks this month.

According to Hadi Haig, the prisoner swap will be implemented after the round of negotiations in Sweden.

On Monday a UN charter flight evacuated 50 wounded Huthi rebel fighters for treatment in Oman - a key rebel precondition for the talks.