Delegates of Yemen's warring government and Houthi rebels say they have set January 20 as a final date to exchange prisoners from both sides, in a mass swap deal.

Houthi representative Salim al Moughaless (R) and Yemeni economist and government representative Ahmed Ghaleb shake hands during the first Yemen peace talks since 2016, on December 10, 2018 in the Swedish rural town of Rimbo.
Houthi representative Salim al Moughaless (R) and Yemeni economist and government representative Ahmed Ghaleb shake hands during the first Yemen peace talks since 2016, on December 10, 2018 in the Swedish rural town of Rimbo. (AFP)

Yemen's Saudi-backed government and rival Houthi rebels announced on Tuesday plans for a mass prisoner swap, exchanging over 15,000 names, as UN-brokered talks on ending the country's war entered their seventh day.

The warring parties' two lists contain a combined total of around 16,000 names, according to delegates at the peace talks in Sweden. But the Houthi rebels announced the names of a total of 15,000 detainees and prisoners to be exchanged. 

Brokered by UN special envoy Martin Griffiths earlier this month, it is one of the main points at talks between the government and Houthi rebels in Sweden this week.

TRT World's Melinda Nucifora reports from Rimbo, Sweden.

Later on Tuesday, Askar Zaeel, a government negotiator on the prisoner swap, said the rebels had named 7,687 detainees whom they were willing to release. The government had named 8,576 detainees, Zaeel said. 

Zaeel told AFP the government demanded the rebels hand over the body of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's former president who was killed at the hands of the Huthis after he broke a fragile alliance with the rebels to re-align with Saudi Arabia.

Both parties have two weeks to revise the list of names.

Prisoners will be flown out through two airports: government-held Seyoun, in central Yemen, and the rebel-held capital Sanaa, home to an international airport that has been largely shut down for three years. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross has confirmed it will oversee the exchange.

Deal implementation by January end

Griffiths told media on Monday the prisoner swap was well underway, adding that he hoped it "will be very very considerable in terms of the numbers that we hope to get released within a few weeks".

Also on Monday, Haid Haig, head of the governmental delegation tasked with the swap, said the deal would be fully implemented by the end of January.

"We agreed ... the deal would be complete within 48 days," Haig said. 

Asked when he expected the exchange to be complete, he replied: "In theory, in January."

Other confidence-building measures 

On Tuesday, Griffiths reported progress on a number of issues.

Besides the prisoner exchange, Griffiths said the two parties have been discussing the details of re-opening Sanaa airport, the de-escalation measures in both Yemeni port city of Hudaida and Taiz as well as the country's economic situation.

Nearly four years into a war that has pushed 14 million Yemenis to the brink of mass starvation, the Riyadh-backed government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and Houthi rebels, began talks on Thursday in the rural town of Rimbo in Sweden.

UN officials expect the talks will last a week.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies