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Yemeni government, Houthis close to agreement: official - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Supporters of the Shi'ite Houthi movement shout slogans during an anti-government protest on August 27, 2014 in the Yemeni capital Sana'a.  (AFP/Mohammed Huwais)

Supporters of the Shi’ite Houthi movement shout slogans during an anti-government protest on August 27, 2014 in the Yemeni capital Sana’a. (AFP/Mohammed Huwais)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s Presidential Commission has resumed efforts to reach a deal with the Houthis to end the ongoing protests in the capital Sana’a, a high-level Yemeni official told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The latest mediation efforts come after talks between the government and Shi’ite Houthi movement broke down last week. Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi strongly criticized the protest movement earlier this week, describing the Houthis as “reckless,” and accusing them of implementing a “sectarian agenda.”

A high-level source within the Presidential Commission that is negotiating with the Houthis told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The commission has resumed communication with the Houthis following the negotiations being conducted by UN envoy Jamal Benomar with all sides regarding the ongoing crisis.”

The Yemeni official stressed that Sana’a is seeking to reach a deal with the Houthis to end the crisis as soon as possible, adding that a deal could be announced as early as Saturday.

However other Yemeni political sources, also speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, expressed doubt about the possibility of the Yemeni government and Houthis reaching a compromise, particularly if the UN officially sanctions the Shi’ite movement.

UN Special Envoy Jamal Benomar is set to brief the UN Security Council later today about the situation in Yemen following consultations with all parties. Benomar had called on Sana’a and the Houthis to compromise to reach a solution to the protests that have brought the capital to a standstill, calling on all parties to “maintain a spirit of national partnership.”

Houthi spokesman Ali Al-Bukhaiti said that a deal could be reached if Sana’a is willing to compromise. Bukhaiti told Asharq Al-Awsat: “If there is a real desire from the authorities, then the distance [between the two positions] is close, and the issue is simple, and does not require all this fuss.”

Bukhaiti denied that the Houthis have plans in place to escalate the situation if their demands are not met. “Whatever steps are taken, these will be peaceful and legitimate.”

The Houthi spokesman also denied that the protesters are solely Houthi-supporters. He said: “These demands have been put forward by the majority of the Yemeni people, and many political parties have backed them, including the General People’s Congress, Yemeni Socialist Party, the Nasserist Unionist People’s Organization, the Ba’athist party, and others. So you could say that there is a national alignment behind these demands.”

Bukhaiti rejected claims that the Houthis are working with Tehran or that there are Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps “experts” advising the Shi’ite movement. “There are no Iranian experts in the areas where we [the Houthis] are present, and we do not need any such experts. The Yemeni people are well versed in such media tactics, and I believe that such propaganda claims [against the Houthis] have been present for more than 10 years since the Saada Wars began.”

The Yemeni president earlier launched a scathing attack on Iran, accusing it of supporting the Houthis. He said: “Iran heavily interferes in Yemen’s affairs and there are four groups affiliated to it that are working against Yemen, and there are Iranian advisers [working for Houthi leader] Abdul Malik Al-Houthi.”