Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s Houthi movement could push for legitimate President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to step down at the forthcoming Geneva peace talks, a senior political figure told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The UN-sponsored Geneva talks will bring Yemen’s legitimate government, the Houthi rebels and the ruling General People’s Congress (GPC), which backs former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, as well as other Yemeni political factions, to the negotiating table to resolve the ongoing political and security crisis in the country.
The Yemeni political source, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said that the Houthis and GPC are expected to put forward a list of joint demands at the meeting. The list will include the stipulation that Yemen’s government continues to be based out of the capital Sana’a, rather than the southern port city of Aden. Hadi sought to establish a presence in Aden after fleeing his Houthi captors in Sana’a earlier this year.
“Their plans aim to target Yemen’s legitimate leadership in the capital,” the source said.
The Yemeni source also warned that the Houthis could attempt to use the unrest in southern Yemen to make further advances elsewhere in the country. “They will try to ensure that the fighting and the conflict continues in the south and that Yemen as a whole remains in a state of instability, by playing on the various struggles between Yemen’s factions. The aim of this is to consolidate their grip on the northern and western parts of the country,” he said. The traditional Houthi stronghold of Saada province is located in northern Yemen, close to the Saudi border.
Riyadh has beefed up security across its southern border in response to the worsening conflict in the country and Houthi cross-border attacks. Saudi air defense intercepted a scud missile fired by Houthi militants towards the southwestern city of Khamis Mushait on Saturday, the Saudi Press Agency reported. The operation took place a day after Saudi forces successfully repelled an attack by Houthi militants and Saleh loyalists targeting the southern city of Najran.
UN Secretary-General spokesperson Farhan Haq told Asharq Al-Awsat that UN envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed held consultations in Oman on Friday and will hold further talks in the Qatari capital of Doha on Saturday to discuss the forthcoming Geneva meeting.
He said that the UN envoy is carrying out “intensive efforts” to prepare for the Geneva talks, adding that the timing of the meeting is still under discussion, although sources have told Asharq Al-Awsat that the meeting will take place on June 14.