Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—The General People’s Congress (GPC), Yemen’s fractured ruling party, will only attend the Geneva peace talks if the party is represented by a single delegation, a senior GPC official told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday.
The official said the GPC had officially informed the UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed that it will not participate in the UN-sponsored talks if party members who support Yemen’s legitimate President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi decide to send their own separate delegation.
Yemen’s internationally recognized government and their Houthi rivals have agreed to hold talks in Geneva to end the political crisis gripping the country.
Former Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who heads the GPC, has been accused of using his influence within the party and Yemen’s military to support the Houthi movement, which mounted a coup against Hadi in January and has occupied large swathes of Yemen, including the capital Sana’a.
Cracks began to emerge within the GPC earlier this year after senior party members, including the second-in-command Ahmed Ben Dhagher, called on the Houthis and Saleh’s militias to withdraw from the areas they have occupied.
Following a wave of public protests against his government in 2012, Saleh agreed to a Gulf-sponsored initiative that saw him step down in favor of his deputy Hadi, while Saleh kept his position as GPC party leader.
The 73-year-old strongman later sacked Hadi and his supporters from the GPC, after the UN Security Council approved sanctions against him and Houthi commanders.
The GPC official said his party has not yet decided who will represent it at the talks as it is still awaiting an official invitation from the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
When asked whether the GPC and the Houthis have agreed on the points of discussion at the meeting, the official said: “There is a great convergence in views between the two sides. The recent developments have unified our positions.”
President Hadi will hold a meeting with several party leaders in Riyadh on Friday to discuss the level of representation and agenda, a source close to Hadi told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Neither Hadi nor Vice-President Khaled Bahah will attend the talks that are scheduled to take place on June 14, the source said.
Following a meeting between Hadi and Ould Cheikh Ahmed in Riyadh on Monday, Yemen’s government said it would attend the Geneva talks on the condition that the Houthis comply with the UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which stipulates the immediate withdrawal of the Shi’ite militants from the areas under their control.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Yemen’s ambassador to the United Nations Khaled Al-Yamani said Ould Cheikh Ahmed “has informed the Houthis, during his visit to Sana’a, about the need to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions, particularly 2216.”
“We have agreed with the UN Secretary-General on June 14 as the date for holding the Geneva talks . . . the UN will officially announce this date once the UN Secretary-General receives confirmations from Ould Cheikh Ahmed that a clear agreement with the Houthis has been reached,” he said.
“The Yemeni government will participate with seven representatives comprised of the government and legitimate [pro-Hadi] parties,” he said.
The other Yemeni factions, the ambassador maintained, will have seven representatives, with two each for the GPC and the Houthi movement, and three representing the remaining parties.
The GPC, however, calls for “just and equal” representation for all factions attending the talks, said the senior party source.
Heba Qudsi contributed reporting from Washington. Nayef Al-Rasheed contributed reporting from Riyadh.