Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Yemen’s ruling party backs Hadi, Popular Resistance enters Aden
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Smoke billows as supporters of exiled Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi clash with Shi’ite Houthi rebels on the outskirts of the Taiz province, Yemen, on May 3, 2015. (AFP Photo/Taha Saleh)

Smoke billows as supporters of exiled Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi clash with Shi’ite Houthi rebels on the outskirts of the Taiz province, Yemen, on May 3, 2015. (AFP Photo/Taha Saleh)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) party has announced it is backing the internationally recognized government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, directing a powerful blow to his rival and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In a statement issued by the GPC’s second-in-command, the ruling party declared its support for President Hadi, calling on the Houthi movement to withdraw their militias from the areas they have controlled and put down their weapons in compliance with the UN Security Council Resolution 2216.

Saleh, who leads the GPC, has forged an undeclared alliance with the Iran-backed Houthi militia that last September seized state buildings and military bases across Yemen, including the capital Sana’a, driving into exile elected President Hadi, who has now sought refuge in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia, which in late April ended a month-long aerial campaign against the Houthis aimed at restoring Hadi to power, has invited all Yemeni political factions, including the Iran-backed group, for reconciliation talks under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh.

The talks are expected to launch later this month.

The GPC has called for the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2216 calling for the immediate Houthi withdrawal and the reinstatement of Hadi, Abdullah Jabari, the chairman of the Executive Committee for the Riyadh talks, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Speaking via telephone, Jabari said a number of GPC members have visited Riyadh under a mandate by the ruling party’s General Committee, the GPC’s highest authority.

The Executive Committee supervising the Riyadh talks is now waiting to receive the GPC’s decision over its participation in the conference within the next 24 hours, the officials said.

“We are certain that all GPC members will attend [the talks], particularly since a large number of them will be in Riyadh for the next few days,” he said.

Several GPC leading figures are opposed to Saleh’s recent actions and his alliance with the Houthis, Jabari maintained, adding that the former president no longer enjoys the same influence he once had within the ruling party.

He said: “The [Riyadh] talks’ Executive Committee supports the GPC’s decision to side with the legitimacy in Yemen and the implementation of the UN Security Council resolution.”

Meanwhile, military forces loyal to Hadi entered Aden in limited numbers on Sunday in a bid to liberate the country’s commercial and business hub from the Houthi militias and Saleh’s loyalists, a military source who requested anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Coalition warplanes provided cover for pro-Hadi militants who engaged in fierce clashes with Houthi fighters in the vicinity of Aden Airport. There have been reports ground troops from the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis have been involved in the fighting.

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri denied however that coalition forces had a presence on the ground in Aden, insisting that this was a role the coalition had assigned to the Yemeni Popular Resistance, a mainly civilian force of pro-Hadi volunteer militias.

“The coalition provides all kinds of support to the Popular Resistance who have now begun to achieve positive results in the vicinity of Aden International Airport, where a large number of Houthi fighters were evicted, as well as the Mualla district [in Aden].”

Asiri also added that the anti-Houthi Popular Resistance forces have no prior military experience and are in need of training, weapons and organization.

Arafat Madabish contributed reporting from Sana’a.