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Gulf Initiative backers blame Houthis for Yemen unrest - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Yemeni army soldiers man a checkpoint amid fears of attacks by Shi'ite Houthi militants in Sana’a, Yemen, 14 September 2014.  (EPA/YAHYA ARHAB)

Yemeni army soldiers man a checkpoint amid fears of attacks by Shi’ite Houthi militants in Sana’a, Yemen, 14 September 2014. (EPA/YAHYA ARHAB)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—The 10 backers of the Gulf Initiative have blamed the Shi’ite Houthi movement for the unrest in the Yemeni capital Sana’a and the Al-Jawf province, large parts of which are under the control of the group.

In a statement on Saturday, the group—partly responsible for creating a new political road map for Yemen following the ousting of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012—expressed their “grave concern” regarding the Houthis’ activities, which they said was the source of the current instability in the country.

The group—which includes the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, a number of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members states, and the European Union—called on the movement to end its protests and negotiate directly with the Yemeni authorities in order to solve the current disputes and put into effect all agreements reached with the government.

The Shi’ite movement has been occupying sites across Sana’a since mid-August, demanding the overthrow of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s government, the reversal of a controversial fuel subsidy cut, and the formation of a new technocratic government. Clashes have raged between the protesters and government forces, coming to a head last week when the demonstrators blocked the main road leading to Sana’a airport.

The statement warned of “foreign interference” in Yemen’s affairs, and President Hadi blamed the latest chaos in the country on Iran, which he called a “regional power seeking to impose its influence on the region and place Yemen in great danger,” according to state news agency SANA.

The statement also condemned other groups in the country it said were using the current unrest to further their own agendas. The Gulf Initiative’s backers said members were “studying the activities of other domestic political powers that are encouraging or fueling the current state of deterioration in the country to achieve personal ends at the expense of the Yemeni people.”

“There are grave concerns regarding the increasing threats toward the security of Yemen in the form of activities of a number of groups and individuals who oppose the full and timely implementation of the transitional stage set forth by the countries of the GCC . . . and the results of the National Dialogue,” the statement said.

This comes as clashes continued in Sana’a on Saturday between Houthi rebels and government forces, who stopped the protesters from entering an area close to the Yemeni state television building.

Eyewitnesses said the clashes resulted in two people being injured, while one Yemeni soldier admitted he had been ordered to attack a convoy carrying food supplies to protesters’ tents.

Hadi also called on Sana’a’s residents to support the country’s army and to carry their own arms to defend their homes against any attacks by Houthi militias, who have spread their protests throughout the capital in recent weeks, especially in the Haziz area in the city.

Speaking on Saturday in the Presidential Palace during a meeting with Haziz residents, Hadi said: “Yemen is living through difficult and complicated times. It is therefore required of all of us to be vigilant and careful so that Sana’a does not slide into further problems and clashes with the armed Houthi militias.”

He also called on the residents to “fully cooperate” with the country’s military to calm the situation and to avoid further violence, except in cases of self-defense when people must protect “themselves, their wealth and their honor.”

He said the Yemeni constitution made provisions for the right to public assembly so long as it was not accompanied by acts of violence, and said the “[Houthi] attempts to break into government buildings, schools, police stations or houses” were “forbidden, and it is absolutely not right to stay silent about this,” adding that residents in the city had good access to arms and were ready to defend “their homes, their rights and their honor” in the face of further attacks from the group.

Meanwhile, a Yemeni soldier was shot and killed on Saturday in the city of Mukalla, the capital and a coastal city of the Hadhramaut province in the country’s south, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The Ministry said the soldier, Abdul Majeed Salmeen Nasr Marqa’, a member of the army’s civil defense unit, was likely killed by an “Al-Qaeda operative.”

Also, in Abyan province bomb disposal specialists disabled what a “domestically produced land mine” near a government building in the town of Zinjibar. The province was long a stronghold of an Al-Qaeda affiliate, Ansar Al-Shari’a, before the army and local militias succeeded in pushing out the group in 2011.