SANAA, (Reuters) – Yemeni officials and northern Shi’ite rebels will go to Doha in the next two days to try to shore up a fragile northern truce with the help of Qatari mediation, officials from both sides said on Tuesday.
Qatar, trying to bolster its image as a regional Gulf Arab peacemaker, brokered a north Yemen peace accord in 2008 before the region slipped back into a civil war that last year drew in top oil exporter and regional power Saudi Arabia.
Yemen reached a new truce with rebels in February to halt sporadic fighting that has displaced 350,000 people since 2005, and officials said this week’s Doha talks would focus on efforts to enhance peace in the north rebel stronghold of Saada.
“We will discuss details of the mechanisms to implement the (current) agreement,” a Yemeni official said, adding that the delegates would look for ways to carry out terms of the truce.
Impoverished Yemen, also facing growing southern separatism, is under pressure to resolve domestic conflicts to focus on quashing a resurgent al Qaeda arm that wants to use the Arabian Peninsula state to launch attacks in the region and beyond.
Al Qaeda’s Yemen-based wing claimed responsibility for a failed bomb attack on a U.S.-bound plane in December and has also carried out attacks on Saudi, British and Yemeni government targets over the past year.
Under the northern ceasefire, Yemen’s Shi’ite rebels were to have disarmed and the government was to release imprisoned rebels, but neither side has fulfilled those obligations.
Yemen and Qatar agreed last month to try to revive peace deal sealed with Qatar mediation in 2008.
The new talks came as the government accused rebels of seizing an administrative building and a hospital in the north Jawf province, near Saada, and exchanging fire with residents of the area.
The Interior Ministry said the rebels had been trying to ake the administrative building for three months, and in the rocess of Monday’s raid also took over the hospital and forced out medical staff, replacing them with rebel loyalists.
A spokesman from the rebels, who complain of religious and economic discrimination, denied the accusations and said the attackers were government-allied tribesmen trying to instigate a return to war in the region.
Separately, a Yemeni journalist who specialised in al Qaeda affairs was arrested by the secret police from his home late on Monday in the capital Sanaa, the man’s brother said. Yemeni security officials declined to comment on the report.
Khalid Abdullah Haidar, brother of writer Abdullah Haidar, said the police searched the home and took Haidar’s computer.
Abdullah Haidar was well known for several interviews he conducted with al Qaeda leaders, including one with the U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki several months ago.