Yemen ‘not negotiating’ with the Houthis, says foreign minister
CAIRO // The Yemeni government is not negotiating with Shiite rebels who control the capital and much of the north, and demands that they lay down their arms, foreign minister Riad Yassin said on Thursday.
“The Houthis and (former president Ali Abdullah) Saleh’s militias must implement the United Nations resolution and surrender their weapons, and only then the dialogue and political process can begin, with the participation of all Yemeni parties,” Mr Yassin said in Cairo after meeting with Arab League secretary general Nabil Elaraby.
Mr Yassin described reported meetings in Oman as mere “consultations” between UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and the Houthis, aimed at convincing the rebels to implement a UN resolution from April.
That resolution requested that the Houthis withdraw from seized areas and surrender weapons taken from military and state institutions.
“That is the only solution that is on the table, there is nothing else,” said Mr Yassin, who – along with the rest of Yemen’s internationally recognised government – is in exile in Saudi Arabia.
The foreign minister said government forces intend to launch their battle for the capital Sanaa within two months and that steps are already under way to break the grip of Houthi fighters who have controlled the city for nearly a year.
“[The battle for Sanaa will begin] within eight weeks, God willing. It has really already begun in the resistance within Sanaa, which is mobilising,” he said.
“Many things are happening which will lead to the retaking of Sanaa.”
Yemen’s conflict pits the Houthis and troops loyal to Mr Saleh against an array of forces including southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni militants and troops loyal to exiled president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.
The conflict escalated in March when the Houthis entered Aden, prompting a Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE to begin launching airstrikes against the rebels.
Also on Thursday, Mr Yassin told the UAE’s state news agency Wam that he appreciated the county’s efforts in restoring legitimacy in Yemen and confronting the Houthis and their allied forces.
He paid homage to the UAE servicemen who have died in Yemen and said that he expected the return of the Yemeni government to the southern city of Aden soon.
Yemeni security officials said that about 50 Saudi forces had arrived in Aden to train and rebuild local forces.
Meanwhile, a drone strike killed at least five suspected militants travelling by car in an Al Qaeda stronghold in eastern Yemen, residents said on Thursday, the latest in a series of attacks by suspected US aircraft.
The strike, which took place around midnight on Wednesday, was the second reported this week in the port city of Mukalla, which was seized by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – one of the deadliest branches of the global militant network – in April.
The group has taken advantage of the ongoing chaos in the country to grab territory and operate more openly.
* Associated Press, Reuters
Updated: August 28, 2015 04:00 AM