Warring Yemen parties carry out prisoner swap in front-line Taiz

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Warring parties in Yemen’s Taiz governorate have exchanged dozens of prisoners in a locally-mediated swap, the Iran-aligned Houthi movement and government sources said on Thursday.

The local deal coincided with renewed diplomatic efforts by the United Nations this week and as Saudi Arabia carries out informal talks with the Houthis about a possible ceasefire.

Seventy-five detainees affiliated with the internationally-recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi were released, local government sources said. In exchange, 60 people affiliated with the Houthi group were also released, according to Houthi-run al-Masirah TV and the local sources.

Yemen has been mired in almost five years of conflict since the Houthi movement ousted Hadi’s government from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014, prompting intervention in 2015 by a Saudi-led military coalition in a bid to restore his government.

Yemen’s third city of Taiz is a volatile front line. A U.N.-mediated deal reached in Stockholm last December aimed to set up a committee to establish humanitarian corridors to the city, but no progress has been made so far.

The United Nations has been trying to re-launch political negotiations to end the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed millions to the brink of famine.

A year on from Stockholm, U.N. Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths visited officials in Yemen and Riyadh this week.

U.N.-mediated talks between warring parties in the strategic port city of Hodeidah also took place for the first time since September. The United Nations has sought to implement a local truce and troop withdrawal from the port agreed at Stockholm.

Meanwhile, Riyadh has been holding informal talks with the Houthis since late September about a wider ceasefire, sources familiar with the discussions have said, as it seeks to exit an unpopular war after its main coalition partner the United Arab Emirates withdrew troops earlier this year.

Reporting by Muhammad Ghobari and Lisa Barrington; Editing by Mark Heinrich