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Yemen factions agree to transitional body: UN envoy
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Armed Yemeni tribesmen from the largest clan in Yemen's Shabwah province gather on February 19, 2015 after forming a "popular army" to protect the province from Houthi militias. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Armed Yemeni tribesmen from the largest clan in Yemen’s Shabwah province gather on February 19, 2015 after forming a “popular army” to protect the province from Houthi militias. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

London and Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s feuding parties have agreed to form a transitional governing body after UN-brokered talks, as two influential southern tribes announced the formation of a “popular army” to fend off advances by the Houthi rebel movement.

Jamal Benomar, the UN envoy to Yemen, announced on his Facebook page that Yemen’s political factions had agreed to form a “People’s Transitional Council,” in a move that promises to steer Yemen out of its current political crisis.

The country has been descending further into violent chaos following the takeover of the capital Sana’a in September by the Houthis.

UN negotiators have struggled for months to come to a political compromise and hopes of an agreement were all but dashed after the Houthis announced a government takeover and dissolved parliament earlier this month.

The new council will replace the Upper House and will work together with the House of Representatives, according to the statement issued by Benomar. It will include traditionally underrepresented groups such as southerners, women and young people.

Benomar admitted that it was not a final agreement, “but an important breakthrough that paves the way toward a comprehensive agreement.”

There was no immediate comment from the Houthi movement on the formation of the new council. The Houthis had earlier said on Thursday that they would be “drawing up the terms and mechanisms for selecting members of the [transitional] national council . . . regardless of the dialogue taking place among the political powers.”

Meanwhile, southern tribes announced the formation of a “popular army” to counter Houthi advances towards the oil-rich area, tribal and media sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday.

During a meeting on Thursday Sunni tribes from the southern provinces of Shabwah and Lahj said they would form a 3,000-strong army to repel Houthi attacks and protect oil and gas infrastructure against potential acts of sabotage.

Yemen’s south has been on high alert following the Houthi takeover of the western province of Al-Bayda, which shares borders with four southern governorates, including oil-rich Shabwah and Lahj.

The tribes vowed to fight “anyone who collaborates with or facilitates the Houthi access to the southern provinces.”

The meeting, which was attended by figures from the southern secessionist Al-Hirak movement as well as by several local dignitaries, called on southerners to unify ranks and prepare for advances from the Shi’ite Houthi group.

The tribes in Shabwah shut their borders with Al-Bayda where fierce battles are taking place between Houthi militants and Sunni tribes.

The meeting also demanded the immediate release of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi who stood down last month in protest against the storming of the presidential palace by the Houthis.

Meanwhile, outgoing Information Minister Nadia Al-Saqqaf said on Twitter that three members of former PM Khaled Bahah’s cabinet were released on Thursday after Houthis had kept them under a virtual house arrest for almost three weeks.

Hamdan Al-Rahbi contributed reporting from Sana’a

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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