Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Yemen parties must reject Saleh to attend Riyadh talks: official
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Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh talks during an interview with Reuters in the Yemeni capital Sana’a, Yemen, on May 21, 2014. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh talks during an interview with Reuters in the Yemeni capital Sana’a, Yemen, on May 21, 2014. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemeni political parties seeking to participate in the forthcoming Riyadh dialogue must announce their rejection of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthi rebels in order to attend the talks aimed at finding a political solution to the crisis in Yemen, a Yemeni official told Asharq Al-Awsat.

This comes one day after three Saudi soldiers were killed in a major Houthi attack on border posts near the Saudi town of Najran. Saudi military and security forces were able to repel the attack, with “dozens” of Houthi rebels killed according to the state-owned Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Supporters of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh—including some military units and members of the General People’s Congress party—allied with the Iran-backed Shi’ite Houthi rebels to overthrow legitimate President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi earlier this year, sparking a major conflict across the southern Arabian peninsula state.

Riyadh launched Operation Decisive Storm, which saw 27 days of intense airstrikes targeting strategic Houthi positions across the country. On April 21, Saudi Arabia announced the launch of Operation Restoring Hope which has seen military airstrikes lessen alongside a renewed push to pressure Yemen’s parties to reach a political solution to the ongoing crisis. Negotiations are set to take place in Riyadh later this month, with many Yemeni parties already in the Saudi capital ahead of the talks.

However Riyadh and Yemen’s legitimate authorities have stipulated that any party that wishes to attend the negotiations must first acknowledge Hadi as Yemen’s legitimate president. The Yemeni official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, called on the General People’s Congress to put forward a clear position on Saleh before the start of the dialogue.

Some of the supporters of the former president, who remains a popular figure in Yemen’s military and security forces, believe that Saleh could still play a role in any future Yemeni government.

A first consultative meeting ahead of the main talks has already taken place in Riyadh, attended by some of Saleh’s supporters including former telecommunication minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghr.

While some opposition parties believe Saleh could still play a role in Yemen’s political future, Hadi’s representatives have said that they will refuse to attend the talks unless Saleh’s supporters renounce him.