AL-MUKALLA: The Gulf Cooperation Council is sponsoring unprecedented and comprehensive peace talks between warring factions in Yemen, including the Iran-backed Houthis, that could begin in Riyadh before the end of this month.
“The Gulf Cooperation Council will invite all Yemeni components, both supporters and oppositions, and the putschist Houthis would have some seats in the talks,” a senior government official told Arab News. The talks might start on March 27 and would continue for at least one week, they added.
Former Yemeni government ministers and outspoken politicians such as Ahmed Al-Maysari, Saleh Al-Jabwani and Abdul Aziz Al-Jubari would be invited. “Almost no one will be excluded,” the official said.
Meanwhile, a car bomb attack on Tuesday on a convoy in which a Yemeni southern military commander was traveling in Abyan province killed two soldiers and seriously injured two more, according to a Reuters report that quoted a military official.
Brig. Gen. Abdul Latif Al-Sayed survived the assassination attempt, said Mohammed Al-Naqib, spokesman for the Southern Armed Forces. Two assailants were also killed, he added.
Al-Sayed is the commander in Abyan of the Security Belt, the military forces of the separatist Southern Transitional Council. In October last year, the governor of Aden, who is a member of the STC, survived a car bomb attack in the port city that killed six people.
The announcement of the proposed GCC-sponsored peace talks came the day after Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi met Nayef Falah Al-Hajraf, the council’s secretary general, in Riyadh. SABA, the official Yemeni news agency, reported that the two men discussed GCC support for moves to end the war in Yemen and the Houthi coup, based on peace talks, continuing efforts to fully implement the Riyadh Agreement and other issues.
They also reportedly discussed the GCC’s financial support for the devalued Yemeni riyal, to address deteriorating services and to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people.
Yemeni officials said the peace talks are contingent on the Houthis accepting the invitation. They added that the rebels might intensify their military operations across the country, and in particular outside the besieged central city of Marib, in an attempt to improve their negotiating position if they agree to participate.
“They will carry out major military operations in Marib and on other fronts to thwart any agreement (and force acceptance of) their onerous conditions that they have repeatedly floated during previous talks,” the official said.
The Houthis have rejected previous peace proposals, including the Saudi initiative, and insist that the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen must first halt its airstrikes and lift alleged restrictions on Sanaa airport and Hodeidah seaport.
Najeeb Ghallab, undersecretary at Yemen’s Information Ministry, told Arab News that the internationally recognized government of Yemen would strongly support any Arab initiative to end the war, but warned that Houthi resistance could sabotage the proposed peace talks.
“We are most supportive of any Arab role to bring Yemenis together under the umbrella of the Gulf Cooperation Council,” he said.
However, he added that powerful factions inside the Houthi movement, which benefit from the war, and Iran, which uses the rebels as its stooge, would reject any calls for peace.
“The Houthis believe that gathering Yemenis … under one umbrella will weaken their role,” said Ghallab.