The United Nations special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, welcomed an offer by the Yemeni group Ansar Allah today to release a number of prisoners unilaterally, amid reports that the Houthis have released 290 prisoners.
Griffiths said he hoped it would lead to further progress on a prisoner swap.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed that the Houthis released 290 Yemeni prisoners in a "unilateral" move on Monday.
Among them, 42 survived an attack on a detention center in Dhamar earlier this month, the committee said in a brief statement.
The Houthis had announced earlier on Monday, they plan to release 350 prisoners, including three Saudis, under the auspices of the United Nations as part of a peace initiative.
Since talks began on Thursday, UN officials have been shuttling between delegations from the Iranian-aligned Houthi group and the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi which is backed by a Saudi-led military coalition.
The first negotiations in over two years were convened amid pressure from Western nations, some of which supply arms and intelligence to Saudi Arabia and other members of the coalition. The nearly four-year-old war in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people and caused a major humanitarian disaster.
Mediator Martin Griffiths opened the new round on Sunday and due to last until December 13 by announcing a deal to release thousands of prisoners. The sides are meeting in a renovated castle outside Stockholm to discuss implementation of the deal.
The team from Hadi's government initially refused to enter the room, saying the Houthis needed to include more senior delegates, but the meeting went ahead, delegates said.
We are very optimistic about having a breakthrough on the prisoners issue ... we have exchanged some lists in the past but each side needs to update them," said Askar Ahmed Zayl, a delegate from Hadi's government.
The parties have yet to agree on trickier issues such as re-opening Sanaa airport and a truce in the port city of Hodeidah, both held by the Houthis, both further confidence-building measures that are the focus of the talks in addition to a framework for negotiations.
"We have three or four days. If we end up without any agreement then this round has failed," the Houthi's main negotiator Mohammed Abdusalam told reporters.
"But if we have a draft on some general framework, the reopening of Sanaa airport, the prisoners release, keeping the central bank neutral and a de-escalation in Hodeidah ... then this will be a good step to hold another round in one or two months."
Griffiths praised the parties' "positive spirit" in engaging constructively and urged for calm on the ground in Yemen, where sporadic battles have continued in the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions, and other parts of the country.
The war has pushed the impoverished Arab country to the brink of starvation and spawned the world's most urgent humanitarian crisis. Some 85,000 children are believed to have died of hunger.
Foreign Policy magazine last week cited two diplomatic sources saying the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organisation had officially determined that 73,000 Yemeni civilians in rebel-controlled cities were enduring famine.
Gulf Arab states also met to discuss the war during an annual summit on Sunday in Saudi Arabia, which along with the United Arab Emirates leads the Western-backed Sunni Muslim military alliance trying to restore Hadi's government.
Saudi TV later reported the Saudi-led coalition said it had issued 17 permits for vessels carrying foodstuffs and petroleum products destined for Yemeni ports.
A US State Department official said the United States would continue to back the coalition after the Senate last month voted to advance a resolution to end military support for the war.
One diplomat at the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity said the peace round could be considered successful if they resulted in agreements to de-escalate hostilities, swap prisoners and hold further round of consultations.
"These are still baby steps. Just having them together in the same restaurant and getting them used to talk to each other is a big deal," the diplomat said.
By| Abeer Almadawy
Aden - SabaNet
Yemeni Coalition for Monitoring Human Rights Violations (Rasd Coalition), confirmed in recent statement that Houthis militia, has abducted and forcibly disappeared 18606 people at different governorates of the country during the period September 2014 – July 2017.
In a statement received by Yemeni News Agency SABA, Rasd indicated that number of abduction committed by Houthis militia and monitored by the Coalition, has reached 15968, while forcible disappearance cases reached 2638 at different governorates.
The statement detailed that that forcible disappearance in 2014 and 2015 reached 1917, 231 in 2016, and 490 in 2017.
Rasd Coalition noted that the abductees and disappeared face serious Health conditions, due to torture at the militia's prisons, who were detained unlawfully, confirming that abduction and forcible disappearance are crimes against humanity.
Rasd Coalition confirmed that it is continuing its work in monitoring and documenting human rights violations against civilians through its monitors in the Yemeni governorates that witness military confrontations by Houthis militia, and the systematic violations on women and children.
Yemeni Coalition called for immediate cessation of the violations by Houthis militia, including abduction and forced disappearance, and to immediately release all abductees, and forcibly disappeared people. Further the Coalition called upon the Security Council, Human Rights Council and the UN system, as well as local and international organizations concerned with human rights to exert more pressure on the militia to disclose abductees and forcibly disappeared whereabouts and to release them immediately.