Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia has renewed regional efforts to implement the UN-sponsored Peace and Partnership Agreement aimed at restoring stability and security in Yemen, a Yemeni presidential adviser told Asharq Al-Awsat, as the powerful Houthi rebel group, already in control of the capital Sana’a, continued to advance towards the country’s oil-rich region of Ma’rib.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, presidential adviser Faris Al-Saqqaf said: “Efforts are being made to rectify the situation and President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has dispatched his advisers to Saudi Arabia in order to bring all sides [in Yemen] back to the Peace and Partnership Agreement.”
Under the deal, the Houthi movement leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi agreed to lay down weapons and return government buildings in Sana’a to state authority in exchange for wider Shi’ite representation in Hadi’s government.
However, since the agreement was signed in September, the Houthi movement has failed to stick to the agreed terms. The rebels still control key state institutions in Sana’a and have continued their advance across the country.
According to the official, the Houthi advance may have grave consequences on the integrity of Yemen. He warned that it may rekindle secessionist sentiments in the southern provinces that border the strategic strait of Bab El-Mandeb. The strait is a vital maritime corridor that provides access to the Red Sea, and therefore the Suez Canal.
The deteriorating situation in Yemen “will reflect on all regional countries, particularly since there are fears of a change taking place in Bab El-Mandeb strait,” Saqqaf said.
The Houthi takeover of Sana’a is seen as a challenge to a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-sponsored initiative aimed at securing a peaceful transfer of power in Yemen. Following a wave of public upheaval against his rule, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a GCC-proposed deal that saw him step down in favor of his deputy Hadi in February 2012.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity Ma’rib tribal sources said that they expected a Houthi attack on their oil-rich province in the next few days as they had detected suspicious movements by Shi’ite militants to the north and west of the governorate.
Tribes in Ma’rib have pledged to defend their province against Houthi invasion after military police personnel tasked with securing the highway linking the province with Sana’a reportedly deserted their posts.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat Shiekh Saleh Al-Najaf of the Al-Obeida tribe said: “The sons of Ma’rib stand with the state and the legitimate President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi against any acts of violence and armed groups threatening the province’s stability and state infrastructure of oil, gas and electricity.”
Sheikh Al-Najaf, who commands dozens of tribal fighters from the province, accused Houthis of destroying the country and spreading violence in a bid to seize power. “The main enemies of Yemen are the Houthis who invade by the force of arms and loot army weapons and state property.”
Meanwhile, Yemeni police arrested five people suspected of having links with the bombing that killed and injured dozens of civilians near the police academy in Sana’a last week, state SABA news agency reported on Friday.