Yemen strongman Saleh open to negotiations with Saudi Arabia
AFP, , Wednesday 10 May 2017


Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh is open to negotiations with rival Saudi Arabia, two years into a deadly war between Saleh's Houthi rebel allies and the Saudi-backed government.

"We have no choice but dialogue," Saleh said at a meeting of his General People's Congress party in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Tuesday.

"We are ready to go to Riyadh, Khamis Mushit, Muscat or elsewhere to start dialogue and to reach an understanding," Saleh said, referring to cities in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring Oman.

Saleh however reiterated his rejection of the government of internationally recognised President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and said Saudi Arabia would have to find "new leadership".

Members of Saleh's circle have been meeting unofficially with Saudi delegates for weeks in Berlin, a Yemeni government official told AFP Wednesday.

Saleh, who survived an assassination attempt in 2011, has repeatedly said he was open to talks with Saudi Arabia.

But he ruled out mediation by UN special envoy Ismail Ould Sheikh Ahmed, who aims to resume stalled peace talks by the end of May, accusing him of bias.

Government spokesman Rajeh Badi told AFP Ould Sheikh Ahmed is currently in Riyadh for talks on the Yemeni crisis, which the UN estimates has killed more than 7,700 people in since March 2015.

While Saleh resigned under massive popular pressure in February 2012, he remains highly influential in Yemen. He was succeeded by Hadi, previously his vice-president.

Parts of the army remained loyal to Saleh after his resignation and he solidified his position as a crucial player in 2014 when he forged an alliance with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The Houthis currently control Yemen's capital, the northern region bordering Saudi Arabia and a string of key ports along the Red Sea coast.

The Hadi government is based in Aden, Yemen's second largest city. The president himself mainly resides in Saudi Arabia.

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