Sanaa, Asharq Al-Awsat- The leader of Yemen’s main opposition bloc, Hasan Zaid, criticized the ongoing war taking place in the northern Yemeni province of Sa’dah. Zaid, who is the current president of the Supreme Council of the Joint Meeting Parties [JMP] said that he regretted the lack of commitment given to the decision to suspend military operations between the governmental forces and the Huthi insurgents in the Sa’dah province. This ceasefire initiative was announced a few days ago by the Yemeni High Security Commission.
In a special interview conducted with Asharq Al-Awsat, Hasan Zaid said that a military resolution [to the conflict in Sa’dah] is not viable, and would mean “the annihilation of millions of Yemenis.”
Asked to clarify his usage of the term “annihilation” Zaid said that “the geographical region or area where the military action and battles are taking place is home to more than three million people” adding “the killing does not only target those who are carrying weapons, but is also against civilians, and this is what I mean by saying that a military resolution will result in the annihilation of millions of Yemenis.”
Zaid went on to say that “the proposed (official) objective [to the governmental military operation] is the eradication of the Huthis from their roots” but that “the Huthis are located on an area that is larger than the Republic of Lebanon, which is located from the Harf Sufyan district in the Amran governorate to the Saudi Arabian border, and from al-Jawf province to the coast.”
Zaid told Asharq Al-Awsat that “there is no doubt that the continuation of the fighting will result in civilians dying from hunger.”
He added “I am of the middle-class, and others like me in the cities, are suffering from financial difficulties and are almost unable to obtain adequate quantities of food, and so what about those who live in a province under siege, where the farms have been devastated, and there is unemployment, and the roads have been cut off. Therefore the talk about annihilation is not a metaphor, but a reality, and now the conflict is taking place in the city of Sa’dah which has a population of 800,000. The State is saying that the Huthis and the sleeper cells are in control of the urban areas, and that these are being used by snipers against their [governmental] soldiers, while the Huthis are accusing the government of using heavy artillery to bomb the city. This picture – from our point of view – is accurate, and not an exaggeration.”
Hasan Zaid also told Asharq Al-Awsat “It is unfortunate that the rhetoric of war, especially during these blessed days [of Ramadan] is louder than the peace rhetoric, and concern of Yemeni blood being shed by Yemeni hands.”
Hasan Zaid denied that the JMP bloc has volunteered to mediate the conflict in Sa’dah saying “We did not offer mediation, but we have expressed our willingness and desire to play any role to resolve the problem by way of serious and transparent national dialogue. We welcome any Arab efforts to bring about dialogue through which the problems in Sa’dah can be resolved, along with many of the [other] problems that Yemen is facing.”
Asked by Asharq Al-Awsat whether the Yemeni authorities regarded Arab efforts to resolve this crisis as interference in Yemeni internal affairs, Zaid recalled that the talk of Arab efforts came about against the backdrop of the visit made to Yemen by Abdul Rahman al-Attiya, the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC], not to mention the statement issued by the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, and the visit made to Doha by [former Yemeni Prime Minister] Dr. Abdul Karim al-Iryani, who is serving as political adviser to the Yemeni President. Hasan Zaid said that in his opinion, the above signifies that “the Yemeni government has opened its doors to Arab efforts.”
Zaid also revealed that the Yemeni authorities are convinced that “if what is happening in Sa’dah continues, this will have an impact beyond Yemen, as what happened in Somalia – for example – negatively affected us and continues to do so. Yemen cannot be isolated from its Arab and geographic surroundings. In order for efforts to be fruitful and productive, they must take place in accordance with a national vision in which the political forces understand that Yemeni interests lie along the same line as regional interests. Yemeni interests lie in [achieving] security, stability, peace, and from applying constitution on all, starting with the governmental institutions.”
Zaid added that these governmental institutions “in many cases, exceed the constitution, starting with arbitrary arrests, and not complying with the results of the [ceasefire] agreements, such as declaring war in an unconstitutional way, as well as not establishing the constitutional oversight institutions over the executive branch, including the military establishment.”
Hasan Zaid also denied that the opposition movement wanted to exacerbate the conflict, saying “We want to utilize Arab efforts in order to resolve the problem in accordance with the national vision.” Zaid also stressed that what is happening in Sa’dah, especially in light of the government’s rhetoric “suggests the exacerbation of the conflict.”
Zaid also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the JMP “categorically opposed” any non-Yemeni military intervention in the conflict taking place in the Sa’dah province, whether this military intervention is to “support the Huthis or support the government.” Zaid stressed that any intervention would only serve to “prolong the war and rob us of the decision regarding war and peace, and this decision – until now – is a Yemeni decision.” He added that “we reject Yemen becoming an arena for regional conflicts to take place, or for regional settling of accounts.”
On Monday, during a press conference attended by JMP leadership and independent political leaders, the JMP announced its “National Salvation Vision” initiative. This is a document that calls for a national dialogue to bring an end to the conflict in the country, and something that has dawn criticism from the Yemeni government who consider it to be a call for establishing a salvation government.