Saudi to hold talks in Riyadh to shape Yemen's future

Ahmed Eleiba , Tuesday 31 Mar 2015

Neither former Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh nor the Houthi rebels are to be represented, a Yemeni source tells Ahram Online

Saudi King Salman attends the opening meeting of the Arab Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, in the South Sinai governorate, south of Cairo, March 28, 2015. Arab League heads of state are holding a two-day summit to discuss a range of conflicts in the region, including Yemen and Libya, as well as the threat posed by Islamic State militants (Photo: Reuters)

Saudi Arabia is to hold talks in Riyadh to produce a roadmap for Yemen's political future after its military intervention in the country, a Yemeni source has told Ahram Online.

Neither the Houthi rebels now controlling Yemen's capital Sanaa, nor Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh will be represented at the talks, according to the source.

Since Thursday, Saudi Arabia and regional allies have launched a series of strikes on Houthi rebels and Saleh loyalists in Yemen, after Houthi fighters on Wednesday stormed the southern coastal city of Aden. Yemen's president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi left Yemen last week, and on Tuesday called for an Arab military intervention on the ground in the country.

Saudi interior minister Muhammed bin Nayef and Saudi defence minister Mohammed bin Salman are to handle the Yemeni file in Riyadh, according to the source, and Saudi Arabia is to prepare military, security and political committees to conceive a future vision for their southern neighbour.

The Riyadh talks are to be in the vein of the 1989 conference in Taif, Saudi Arabia, that resulted in an end to Lebanon's civil war, the source stated.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have had their differences regarding the Yemeni crisis, the source said.

The late king Abdullah had agreed with his UAE counterparts to co-sponsor talks on Yemen's future. Both were perceived as wanting to keep Yemen's Islah Party, an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, out of the talks. But Riyadh's policy has changed since the coronation of King Salman, and Saudi Arabia now feels that it should be the only country to handle the Yemeni talks, the source stated.

It is however not yet known whether the Islah party will be represented at the Riyadh talks.

Meanwhile, Ali Nasir Muhammed, former president of South Yemen before unification in 1990, is already in Riyadh to attend the talks, according to the source.

Muhammed had hoped to become Yemen's new president, as he felt Hadi was weak, and especially as Yemenis in Sanaa had come to accept the idea of a Yemeni president form the south of the country, the source added.

During Hadi's stay in Aden after he fled the capital at the end of February, Saudi Arabia discovered that he held no significant political leverage in the south of Yemen, unlike Saleh before him.

A plan for a unified Yemen will take centre stage in the talks, while the Southern issue will remain on the sidelines, the source concluded.

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