Four Days of Talks in Oman: What Progress Have Yemen's Warring Sides Made?

Sheba Intelligence | 2024-07-03 05:39 PM UTC


It has been four days since the Yemeni government and the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group began a new round of talks on prisoner swap in Oman. Today, the two sides have declared one of the agreements they have reached.

 The Houthis have agreed to reveal the fate of Mohammed Qahtan, a member of Yemen's Islah Party, who has been forcibly hidden in Houthi prisons for nearly ten years. This has marked a major breakthrough and significant progress in the Yemeni-Yemeni dialogue, which is held under the auspices of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, with diplomatic support from the Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Majid Fadael, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Human Rights and the spokesperson for Yemen's UN-recognized government delegation, said in a statement on X today, "We reached an agreement with the Houthi delegation, under the supervision of the United Nations, to exchange 50 Houthi prisoners in exchange for the politician Muhammad Qahtan, who was kidnapped and hidden for more than nine years." He previously expected the consultations to last about ten days.

The Houthis also confirmed that they reached an agreement with what they called "the other side" to release Qahtan for 50 Houthi captives. If Qahtan is dead, the group will hand over his body for 50 Houthi bodies.

Since his detention in 2015 in Sanaa, it is unclear whether Qahtan is dead or alive.

A political source who is familiar with the circumstances of the Yemeni talks in Muscat said from the first day of the negotiations, the government delegation was determined to receive a written response from the Houthis to explain Qahtan's fate before entering into any discussions on the release of prisoners.

The two sides presented the lists containing the names of the detained and forcibly disappeared persons. According to the source, some names' fates are unknown, which poses a considerable difficulty.

During previous negotiations in Stockholm in 2018, the delegations of the government and the Houthi group submitted lists of more than 15,000 prisoners and detainees. In April last year, the Yemeni government and the Houthi group agreed on a prisoner swap, releasing about 900 prisoners from both sides.

The political source added, "What distinguishes the Yemeni negotiations in Muscat is that they enjoy the support of the Omani mediators, Saudi Arabia, the United Nations and the Red Cross. Everyone knows the importance of making this round a success because its failure will close many doors in light of the current tension and escalation between the two Yemeni parties to the conflict."

The Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen (OSESGY) said in a statement on X today, "The ongoing round of negotiations about detainees in Oman is taking place in a positive and constructive atmosphere so far. The parties have reached an understanding about arrangements to release conflict-related detainees that include Mohamed Qahtan.

Some political observers in Yemen are optimistic, saying that Oman's diplomatic power played a decisive role in bringing the Houthi group and the Yemeni government to the negotiating table. They expect that Oman will contribute to the success of the ongoing Yemeni dialogue. It remains to be seen if the continuing dialogue between the warring sides will resolve other issues related to the country's politics and the economy.