Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Yemen talks to begin in Riyadh in coming weeks: Yemen FM
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Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin talks to reporters during a press conference at the Yemeni embassy in Saudi Arabia on March 30, 2015 in the Saudi capital Riyadh.  (AFP/Fayez Nureldine)

Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin talks to reporters during a press conference at the Yemeni embassy in Saudi Arabia on March 30, 2015 in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (AFP/Fayez Nureldine)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s legitimate government will seek to restart the political process and launch a long-awaited dialogue on the country’s future in Riyadh within the next few weeks, Yemen Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin said.

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Yassin said that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-sponsored talks could take place in the coming weeks, despite the ongoing Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm targeting Houthi rebels in Yemen.

“We are working to prepare for the launch of the political process within a legitimate framework, particularly as the only way out of the Yemeni crisis is through dialogue,” he said.

“Any other talks or dialogue being promoted by others are unrealistic and unacceptable,” he added, in an implicit reference to talks called for by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The Riyadh conference, which would have originally seen Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi participate in talks with rival political factions to resolve the crisis in the country, has been in the works since before the launch of Operation Decisive Storm, although the Houthis had refused to attend.

Since then, the Houthis have expanded their control across other parts of Yemen, placing legitimate President Hadi under house arrest in Sana’a and forcing him to resign. Hadi was eventually able to escape the capital, setting up a rival government in the southern port city of Aden. He was forced to flee for a second time after Houthi troops advanced on the southern city. The embattled leader has established a government-in-exile in Saudi Arabia, with the Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm being launched to back the legitimate political authority in Yemen, represented by Hadi and his government.

Given the current state of unrest and violence in the country, it is unlikely that the Houthis will agree to attend any peace talks in Riyadh.

“If the Houthis want to be part of the dialogue, they must put down their weapons, stop killing the Yemeni people and return to their areas as civilians,” the Yemeni foreign minister told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The Houthis’ traditional stronghold is the Saada governorate, in the north of the country close to the Saudi border, although the group has spread out to take control of large parts of northern and central Yemen.

If the Houthis fail to meet these conditions, the coalition will carry out the “necessary measures” against them, Yassin warned.

“These conditions [disarming and acknowledging the legitimacy of President Hadi] are not just for the Houthis and the followers of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, but for all parties who think that violence or force of arms are acceptable means of dominating power,” Yassin said.