Sanaa, Asharq Al-Awsat- Informed sources have revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Yemeni authorities concluded a short-term agreement with the Shiite Houthi rebels yesterday. The sources revealed that this agreement stipulates a ceasefire between the two parties on all fronts, including in the border region with Saudi Arabia, and that talk will resume between the two parties following the holy month of Ramadan [due to begin 21 August].
The source revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the mediation committee in the Saada region which is headed by a well known Yemeni arms dealer was able to reach this agreement without discussing the fate of the military sites that the Houthi rebels had captured during the past few weeks. This agreement was also concluded without overtly discussing thorny and controversial issues such as the soldiers held prisoner by the Houthi rebels, as well as the Houthi rebels being detained by the Yemeni authorities. The Houthis have been calling for the release of all of their supporters who were arrested since the beginning of the First War in the summer of 2004.
Houthi rebel spokesman Mohamed Abdel Salam confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that a truce had been concluded, and that this agreement includes a number of points such as; implementing a ceasefire, allowing freedom of travel on the roads, allowing the return of local authorities in order to provide services to the citizens, as well as the drawing up of military lines by both sides. Negotiations with regards to the Houthi detainees as well as the soldiers and officers held prisoner by the rebels are to take place following this.
Abdel Salam also indicated his surprise that [government] military operations were still taking place in the Maran region, rejecting the implementation of this agreement. Salam said that not only did the bombardment of the region continue after the agreement had been made, but that this had intensified.
The Houthi spokesman accused what he described to be “hidden hands” in the military leadership in the region of wanting to maintain “a state of war and reject all efforts of conciliation. The sites in Maran have been under a continuous state of war since the end of the Fifth War [July 2008].”
Abdul Salam indicated that the Houthis are dealing with peace “as a strategic choice; we are from the Saada region, and the people of the Saada region are the first ones to be afflicted by the war.” He added “the peace is in our interest, but if Maran and Al-Malaheedh continue to be subject to aggression…we will defend ourselves.” However at the same time Abdul Salam expressed his hope and optimism with regards to the continuation of this truce.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh warned yesterday against what he described as the continuation of violations by the Houthi rebels in the Saada region. Saleh spoke of his regret at the lack of commitment exhibited by the “saboteurs and rebels of Saada” towards the truce. He added “the rebels continue their frequent breaches and assaults against citizens, their properties, burning farms, destroying houses, schools, and mosques, as well as hindering the development projects in the governorate.”
Whilst presiding over a meeting of the Supreme Security Council held on Sunday attended by the Interior Minister and Minster of Defense, President Saleh said “the continued violations by rebels and acts of sabotage prove their refusal to adhere to the peace option announced by the government a year ago.”
It is worth mentioning that many of the war-torn regions in Yemen witnessed calm on Monday following the conclusion of this truce. At the same time there were attempts to remove the Houthi rebels from the area of Amran that they have recently gained control of and which neighbors the Yemeni capital of Sana.