Yemen's warring parties meet in Jordan to discuss prisoner swap

The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously approved an expanded ceasefire monitoring mission in Yemen's Red Sea port of Hodeidah, allowing 75 observers to be deployed there for six months to try and ensure the fragile truce stays on track.

The resolution will almost quadruple the number of UN staff under Patrick Cammaert, a retired Dutch general, tasked with enforcing the ceasefire agreed between Yemen's government and the country's Houthi rebels during peace talks in Sweden last month.

Hodeidah is the point of entry for most of the nation's commercial goods and aid supplies and a cessation of violence is considered vital to speed up much needed food and medical supplies to people going hungry because of the war.

Both sides are required to stop fighting and for an ordered pull back of forces to hand control of the city and its important port to civilian authorities.

The UK said the move reaffirmed the commitment of the international community to the deal.

Meanwhile in Amman, Yemen’s warring parties met on Wednesday to discuss the implementation of a prisoner exchange deal, as Germany prepares to host a conference to support efforts to secure peace in the country.

The meeting in Amman marks the first time delegations representing Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government have met for direct talks since UN-led peace negotiations ended in Sweden last month.

During the talks in Rimbo in December, both sides agreed to release thousands of prisoners. Both sides would submit lists of names to be finalised.

The development came as Alistair Burt, the British minister for the Middle East, said that conditions were coming into place for a second round of peace talks to be held outside the country in the next few weeks. Speaking from Westminster on Wednesday, Mr Burt said it was important that another meeting take place to maintain momentum from the Stockholm meeting, particularly around the key port of Hodeidah.

“The effect on the ground has been for things to be much quieter than they were. There is sporadic incidents but there was bound to be,” he said. “The ceasefire is holding and there have been benefits on both sides.

“At this stage, my understanding is to keep those talks going because it’s not the letter of the law that anyone is necessarily going to adhere to but when those with weaponry who are facing each other have confidence in what the others are going to do.”

He said there had been offers from outside states to host talks, which he said would provide an acid test for the process. “There’s no date fixed for it but it very much in people’s mind that it will happen,” he said. “There have been one or two offers from states to host this, it is unlikely to be Stockholm but it will be outside the immediate area. Work is in active progress to set this up.”