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Yemen war parties swap bodies in latest sign of talks progress


By Mohammed Alghobari and Abdulrahman al-Ansi

ADEN/SANAA (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia and the Houthi authorities controlling north Yemen have exchanged 64 fighters’ bodies in the third such recent deal, Houthi media said on Wednesday, the latest sign of progress in talks to end their eight-year conflict.

The bodies were exchanged at the Saudi-Yemeni border where delegations from both sides met after weeks of negotiations in Saudi Arabia, footage and commentary from Houti-run Al Masirah TV on Wednesday showed.

It was not clear exactly when the exchanges took place.

A Saudi-led military coalition in 2015 intervened against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that ousted Yemen’s internationally recognised government from Sanaa in 2014.

The war has destroyed Yemen’s economy, plunged millions into hunger and killed tens of thousands, but talks to end it have picked up since Riyadh and Iran in March restored diplomatic ties.

The Saudi delegation received six of its soldiers and allied fighters, and the Houthi group received 58 bodies. Footage showed body bags being exchanged between vans and trucks.

There was no mention of the body exchange in Saudi media and the Saudi government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In another sign of thawing relations, Saudi Arabia last week said it would allow Yemen Airways to carry passengers into Saudi Arabia for Islam’s annual Haj pilgrimage from the Yemeni capital Sanaa for the first time since war broke out in 2015.

The first plane carrying 273 pilgrims left Sanaa for Jeddah on Saturday. A number of Houthi officials are in Saudi Arabia for the Haj including the deputy head of the Houthi Military Committee, Yahya al-Razami, Houthi-run Saba News said.

The Saudi-led coalition has controlled Yemen’s airspace since 2015 and only one commercial flight a week from Sanaa, to Amman in Jordan, had been running since May 2022. Before that, only United Nations flights had served Sanaa.

(Reporting by Mohamed Alghobari; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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