Yemeni president: Houthis must leave Sanaa before any negotiations

Published May 29th, 2015 - 03:49 GMT

Yemen’s exiled government and several political factions said on Thursday that they refuse to negotiate with the Houthi rebel group unless it withdraws forces from the areas it has occupied.

UN-sponsored talks aimed at resolving the crisis in Yemen, originally scheduled for May 28 in Geneva, have been postponed due to the Houthis not adhering to a UN Security Council Resolution on Yemen, exiled Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin told Asharq Al-Awsat.

A meeting between Yemen’s political factions, which was chaired by the internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, concluded in Riyadh on Thursday with calls for the rebel group to comply with the UN Security Council Resolution 2216 that stipulates that the rebels immediately withdraw from the capital Sana’a and other areas the group has occupied in Yemen.

After leading a successful coup against the central government of Sana’a earlier this year, the Houthis, who are backed by Iran, extended their military presence across Yemen, setting up checkpoints and seizing army bases.

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of ten Arab states in an aerial campaign targeting Houthi positions in Yemen with the aim of reinstating Hadi to power. The embattled president has set up a temporary base for his government in the Saudi capital.

The meeting in Riyadh concluded by calling for “a fruitful dialogue” with the Houthis that would see the rebel group end its occupation of Yemen.

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, a Yemeni political figure who attended the meeting, Abdulaziz Al-Jubari, said: “We are not against dialogue. But we also support a fruitful dialogue [that leads to] the implementation of the outcomes of the Riyadh conference and the UN Security Council resolutions, particularly resolution 2216.”

Those attending the conference, which was called for by Saudi Arabia and sponsored by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), stated that Hadi be restored to power in Yemen and demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Houthis from Sana’a. The Houthi movement did not attend the talks in Riyadh.

“Once the Houthi militia starts to withdraw from Sana’a and the remaining provinces, Yemen’s political factions will have no problem with holding a dialogue with the insurgents,” Jubari said.

“[Participants] in the Thursday meeting agreed that a dialogue for dialogue’s sake was unacceptable given that a [previous] dialogue had taken place in Sana’a and lasted for one year.”

An earlier round of UN-sponsored talks collapsed in January after the Houthi movement placed both Hadi and his Prime Minister Khaled Bahah under house arrest and dissolved the country’s parliament.

The Houthi power grab plunged Yemen into war as pro-Hadi volunteer fighters, backed by Saudi-led airstrikes, clash with an alliance of Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

President Hadi told the meeting on Thursday: “We are advocates of peace and it pains us [to see] the scale of suffering of our people thanks to the coup mounted by the Houthis and Saleh’s militias as well as their pointless wars that have resulted in destruction, violence and killings across the country.”

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