Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s ruling party on Tuesday joined the Houthi movement in rejecting calls to hold reconciliation talks in Riyadh under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, the Deputy Secretary-General of the General People’s Congress (GPC) Faiqa Al-Sayyed said her party is against moving talks from Sana’a to Riyadh as such a step would place “burdens” on its leaders who are mainly based in Yemen.
“We welcome Riyadh, the capital of an authentic and ancient country that we love and respect, but we have some reservations,” said Sayyed, who also heads up the GPC’s negotiation team at the UN-sponsored talks in Yemen, which aim to end the current political deadlock.
“Perhaps if we travel abroad, we may not feel the pain of people or their aspirations towards realizing the tasks of the talks,” she added.
The official said Yemen is “at a crossroads” and that the GPC is calling for the formation of a presidential council to run the affairs of the country.
Yemen has been in a state of turmoil since a popular uprising led to the removal of president Ali Abdullah Saleh from power in 2011. The country was plunged into further chaos in September last year after Houthi Shi’ite militias overran the capital Sana’a.
When asked about allegations of an alliance between the ruling party and the Houthis, Sayyed said: “The GPC is in harmony with all factions . . . and portraying the crisis as being between all political powers and Ansar Allah would be a big mistake,” using the name of the Houthi movement’s political wing.
Political factions taking part in the UN-sponsored talks asked UN Envoy Jamal Benomar last month to move the talks outside Sana’a after the Houthi rebels took over de facto control of the country.
The Shi’ite militia ordered the dissolution of parliament and placed top government officials, including President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah under house arrest in early February.
President Hadi called on Saudi Arabia to host the negotiations following his escape from Sana’a to Aden. The Kingdom welcomed Hadi’s request and invited all political factions to attend talks at the headquarters of the GCC in Riyadh.
Despite their opposition, the Houthis are facing pressure to attend the Riyadh talks, a member of the cabinet of PM Bahah told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“There are pressures being placed on the Houthis to participate in the dialogue in Riyadh,” Yemeni Minister for Water and Environment Al-Ezzi Sharim said.
According to Sharim, who is now located in Aden, Hadi’s key officials are currently discussing ways to make the southern port city the country’s financial hub.
Meanwhile, several hundred Yemenis marched the streets of Sana’a on Tuesday demanding former president Saleh’s son, Ahmed Saleh, run for the presidency, in a move many observers interpret as an attempt by the former president to return to power. Ahmed Saleh is currently Yemen’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.
Several military vehicles roamed Sana’a raising pictures of Ahmed Saleh, according to eyewitnesses.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, Yemen military sources said: “The majority of Yemen’s military forces, particularly the ones positioned around the capital Sana’a, are loyal to Brig. Gen. Ahmed Saleh, the former commander of the Republican Forces.”
The pro-Ahmed Saleh campaign comes one day after Ali Abdullah Saleh made direct threats to those “rushing to the province of Aden to announce secession,” in reference to President Hadi and his aides.
Wael Hazzam contributed reporting from Al-Hudaydah