London and Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Restarting political dialogue in Yemen remains the only solution for ensuring the country’s future, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US said on Wednesday, though he also reiterated that the Kingdom and its allies would not hesitate to use force should there be any further acts of aggression by the Houthi movement in Yemen.
“The Houthis should be under no illusion that we will continue to use force in order to stop them from taking Yemen over by aggressive action,” ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir told reporters at the Saudi embassy in Washington, DC. “We are determined to protect the Yemeni people and counter any aggressive moves that the Houthis may undertake.”
“When the Houthis or their allies make aggressive moves there will be a response. The decision to calm matters now rests entirely with them,” he added.
Jubeir said Operation Restoring Hope, the second phase of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, seeks to restart the political process in the country, stop all Houthi transgressions against the Yemeni people and beef up efforts to send humanitarian aid and assistance to the country.
Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse Iran and former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh of backing the Shi’ite Houthi movement’s recent coup in Yemen. Jubeir said Iran was “part of the problem, not part of the solution” for the country and that the Kingdom had direct proof of Tehran’s involvement with the Houthis.
After their takeover of Sana’a in September of 2014, the Houthis’ militias took over government buildings and military institutions throughout the country in February, announcing that it would unilaterally form a new cabinet and an interim presidential council to run the country’s affairs.
Yemen’s legitimate and internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, as well as prime minister, and now vice president, Khaled Bahah and other members of his cabinet were then placed under house arrest by the group.
Hadi and Bahah eventually escaped to the southern port city of Aden, seeking to form a rival power base in the country. However, continued Houthi aggression forced Hadi to travel to Riyadh in March to seek military intervention in Yemen by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, a move which kick-started the recent Decisive Storm campaign against the Houthis.
There have been reports of further Houthi aggression in Aden and the Red Sea coastal city of Taiz. Jubeir said the Saudi-led anti-Houthi coalition was continuing to offer support to Yemeni volunteer forces on the ground loyal to Hadi, who are countering continuing Houthi efforts to destabilize the country.
As recent reports suggest coalition airstrikes have continued in Yemen even after the declaration of the end of Operation Decisive Storm, eyewitnesses in Taiz told Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday that the group’s militias had stormed an army barracks in the city and were continuing acts of aggression against civilians.
They said snipers belonging to the Houthi militias still had a presence in the city and were indiscriminately targeting unarmed residents, while other Houthi fighters continued to spread throughout Taiz.
However, the head of the Taiz volunteer groups loyal to Hadi told Asharq Al-Awsat his forces were in control of the situation in the city and the Taiz governorate as a whole.
“The state of the [anti-Houthi volunteer] opposition in Taiz is excellent, we continue to hold around three-quarters of territory [in the province], and our morale is very high,” he said.
Meanwhile, members of the former ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) party, which is headed by former president Saleh, met with the Saudi, British, and US ambassadors to Yemen in Riyadh on Wednesday.
An informed Yemeni source told Asharq Al-Awsat nine senior members of the party were involved in the meetings and would also be meeting on Thursday with the secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council Abdullatif Al-Zayani.
The source, who requested anonymity, did not divulge what was discussed during the meetings, which come as several members of the party recently announced they were breaking ties with Saleh. The former president, who was ousted in 2012 following mass protests against his more than three-decade rule, is accused by Saudi Arabia, its allies, and the United Nations of seeking to destabilize the country through his support of the Houthis.
Adhwan Alahmari and Arafat Madabish contributed additional reporting from London and Sana’a.