Yemen's government reach deal with rebels to end standoff

Published January 22nd, 2015 - 06:00 GMT
The rebel Houthi movement has launched an increasing number of attacks since September. (Photo: AFP/Mohammed Huwais)
The rebel Houthi movement has launched an increasing number of attacks since September. (Photo: AFP/Mohammed Huwais)

Yemen's President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi has agreed to implement demands made during Abdulmalik Al-Houthi’s televised speech on Tuesday in order to prevent further escalations.

Hadi’s approval came after meetings with his advisors, including Houthi representative Saleh Al-Sammad, which began on Tuesday evening and continued into the morning.   

The Houthi leader made his demands during a televised speech on Tuesday evening, which was aired on the Houthi-affiliated channel Al-Masira. It came hours after renewed clashes between government and Houthi forces in which the Presidential Palace and President Hadi’s personal home came under attack.

The president agreed to cooperate with Houthi popular committees and work to implement the four demands set out in Al-Houthi’s speech. These included calls to reform the National Authority for the Implementation of NDC Outcomes, amend the draft constitution, implement the Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA), and to seek an immediate resolution to the security situation in Marib.

A failure to meet these demands would push the Houthis to “take new and strict measures that will prove very painful,” said Al-Houthi.

During his speech, Al-Houthi accused the president of “stalling and wasting time” in implementing the PNPA and of “conspiring and aiding Al-Qaeda.” He also warned against external intervention and, addressing the United Nations Security Council, said that “any measures aiming to subdue this country and conspire against it will be futile—we are ready to face any challenges.”

The UN Security Council condemned attacks on the Presidential Palace and identified President Hadi as the country’s only legitimate ruler. In a statement released from New York on Tuesday evening, members of the Security Council demanded an immediate ceasefire and called on all political parties and blocs in Yemen to stand with the president and prevent government institutions from being undermined.  

President besieged
President Hadi’s personal residence on Al-Siteen Street remains occupied by armed Houthis. The building was taken after over two hours of fighting in which two of the president’s guards were killed, according to Ali Al-Qanes, an officer with the Presidential Guard.

Accusations that Houthi intruders had ransacked the residence were denied by Mahmoud Al-Junaid, a member of the Houthi Political Office. He said the militants took control of the compound in order to protect it as well as President Hadi, who remains inside and is holding ongoing meetings with Houthi representatives there.

According to Al-Junaid, the Houthis have no intention of removing President Hadi from power, whom they acknowledge as the country’s legitimate ruler. “We merely want to put the country on the right course,” he said. “We will work with Hadi if he meets our demands, he is the president of Yemen.”

Armed Houthis also besieged the Presidential Palace in Al-Sabaeen district on Tuesday afternoon, although similar levels of violence were not seen there as his security forces surrendered following negotiations with the Houthis.

Abdulrazak Al-Faqih, an officer stationed at the presidential residence, said his men managed to escape unharmed following orders from his superiors to withdraw from the premises.

Armed Houthis who had surrounded the residence allowed them to leave with their personal firearms, although Al-Faqih said they were prevented from taking additional arms with them. “I personally tried taking three AK47 but they stopped me, so I ended up leaving with just one,” he said.

UN Special Advisor on Yemen Jamal Benomar said in a meeting with the UN Security Council on Tuesday that Houthis were able to persuade the Presidential Guards not to resist, which allowed them to break into the Presidential Palace.

Mohammad Al-Bukhaiti, a member of the Houthi Political Office in Sana’a, confirmed Houthis had contacted the Presidential Guards and persuaded them not to resist on Monday evening.

Houthis took over the Presidential Palace and his personal residence one day after violent clashes with the president’s security forces which left 18 killed and 94 injured, the deputy emergency manager at the Ministry of Health, Ghazi Ismael, told the Yemen Times Wednesday.

Speaking with the Yemen Times, Minister of Information Nadia Al-Sakkaf said on Tuesday that actions taken against the president amounted to an attempted coup.

The Presidential Guard is composed of four brigades and was formed by presidential decree in 2012.

There are unconfirmed reports that Houthis have seized weapons stored at the Presidential Palace, an allegation Al-Junaid has denied. “Our men have not taken any weapons, we have only prevented soldiers and officers from doing so,” he told the Yemen Times.

Mohammad Mahmoud Ibrahim, who is a bodyguard for former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and who meets weekly with officers at the Presidential Palace, told the Yemen Times the following weapons were as of Wednesday being held at the palace: 300 tanks, 122 rocket launchers, almost 500 vehicles equipped with 12.7 caliber machine guns, 400 automatic assault rifles, 23 anti-aircraft artillery, 125 armored vehicles, 5,000 Glock, Perita, and Caracal handguns, and almost 10,000 sniper rifles. The Yemen Times was unable to independently verify these claims.

© Copyright Yemen Times. All rights reserved.

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