Yemen warring parties discuss possible prisoner swap including 16 Saudis

RIYADH, March 28 (Reuters) - Yemen warring parties are discussing a possible prisoner swap which could see hundreds of detainees freed, including 16 Saudi nationals and a brother of the Yemeni president, officials said on Monday.

A deal between the Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthi movement could help de-escalate violence and boost U.N. efforts to broker a truce during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts in April, analysts say.

The initiative comes as the war enters its eighth year, with violence escalating over recent months. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, and left millions facing starvation and disease.

Houthi official Abdul Qader al-Mortada said on Twitter that the deal, under the auspices of the United Nations, could free 1,400 Houthi prisoners in return for 823 coalition prisoners, including 16 Saudis and three Sudanese prisoners.

Releasing the brother of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and former defence minister Mahmoud al-Subaihi is also under discussion, he said.

Mortada, head of the Houthis' national committee for prisoner affairs, added that the two parties would exchange their lists of prisoners on Tuesday.

An official in Hadi's Saudi-backed government said no final agreement had been reached.

"The issue is under discussion. When there is a final approval, a formal note will be sent to the (U.N.) envoy's office and it will be published," said Hadi Haig, head of the government's delegation in the prisoner talks.

A senior official at the U.N. envoy's office in Yemen also said no final deal had been reached.

On Saturday, the Houthis said they were suspending missile and drone strikes on Saudi Arabia for three days in a peace initiative it said could be a lasting commitment if the Saudi-led coalition stopped air strikes and lifted port restrictions. read more

This followed a call from U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg for both sides to agree on a humanitarian truce.

Saudi Arabia is also due to host a meeting on Tuesday with several Yemeni parties attending. The Houthis said they would take part in talks only if they were held in a neutral country.

Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, Yasmin Hussein and Mohammed Ghobari, Editing by William Maclean, Pravin Char and Nick Macfie

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