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story.lead_photo.caption Rana Ghanem, member of a Yemeni government delegation, speaks to journalists during the ongoing peace talks on Yemen held at Johannesberg Castle, in Rimbo, Sweden, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018. Yemen's warring parties are meeting for a third day of talks in Sweden aimed at halting the country's catastrophic 4-year-old war. (Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency via AP)

RIMBO, Sweden -- Yemen's warring parties met Sunday for the fourth day of U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Sweden to try to hammer out details of a prisoner exchange, which could eventually include all prisoners held by both sides in the four-year civil war.

The parties focused on the swap amid optimism on first steps toward a political dialogue. Yemen's conflict pits the Iran-backed Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, against the internationally recognized government supported by a U.S.-sponsored Saudi-led coalition.

"We are progressing toward implementation, how to swiftly group together the prisoners," said Askar Zouail, from the government delegation. "The atmosphere is positive. And we are optimistic."

Speaking later at the venue, a castle north of Stockholm, the head of the Houthi delegation said a committee was discussing the swap and that the rebels were ready for the exchange, which would include rebel fighters he said are held at undisclosed locations abroad. After signing the agreement, bodies of the dead should be identified.

"That will solve the problem of the missing," said Mohamed Abdelsalam.

The war has killed tens of thousands and made Yemen the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with 22 of its 29 million people in need of aid, according to the U.N. The airport in rebel-held capital, Sanaa, has been closed since August 2016 by order of the Saudi-led coalition, leaving the rebel-held north of Yemen heavily relying on the Red Sea port of Hodeida, which is controlled by the Houthis, for delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid and fuel supplies.

At a security forum in Abu Dhabi, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Arabian Gulf Affairs Timothy Lenderking said the United States is supportive of the "good spirit of cooperation" observed at this stage in the talks, and hoped for concrete results to help reduce the pain inflicted on civilians.

"There's a sense that what's driving this is the concern about civilian casualties. That's a responsibility on both sides in this conflict," he said.

Information for this article was contributed by Brian Rohan, Aya Batrawy and Fay Abuelgasim of The Associated Press.

A Section on 12/10/2018

Print Headline: Prisoner exchange aim of Yemen talk


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