Consensus on UN initiative is near : Yemeni source

Ahmed Eleiba , Sunday 6 Nov 2016

Sources report that the initiative of UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Sheikh Ahmed on a peace deal for Yemen may come to fruition, spurred by a last ditch visit to the region of John Kerry

Yemeni men supporting the Shiite Huthi rebels demonstrate against a UN-proposed peace plan for their country during a protest outside the hotel hosting UN envoy for Yemen, in Sanaa, on November 5, 2016. (AFP)

A Yemeni source has told Ahram Online that continuous visits of UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Sheikh Ahmed to Sanaa and Riyadh have encouraged rapprochement among warring parties in Yemen.

The source — who attended one of the meetings that Ahmed took part in earlier this week — stated that the situation will "positively impact" the process of finalising a peace deal, ahead of an expected visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry to the Middle East

Before the start of the US presidential race on 8 November, Kerry is expected to make a final push for a peace deal in Yemen during a visit to Abu Dhabi and Muscat.

Among other demands, the Saudi delegation that met Ahmed recently in Sanaa — according to the same source — called for halting military confrontations on the Saudi-Yemeni borders.

Another Saudi-based Yemeni source told Ahram Online that Saudi Arabia wants Houthi militants and troops of Ali Abdullah Saleh to be redeployed inside Yemeni territories in a manner that keeps them 40 kilometres away from the Saudi borders.

The source did not specify whether or not the Houthi-Saleh alliance made a similar demand. But talks will most likely include implementing similar arrangements on the Saudi side, even if the element of distance remains unspecified.

For the Houthi-Saleh bloc, the Sanaa-based source revealed that Saleh demanded transferring the powers of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi to a vice president to be decided by the parties involved in the conflict.

The source refused to discuss what political figures may be nominated for the vice presidential post. Meanwhile, Saleh demanded that the vice president be authorised to take decisions without waiting for Hadi's approval.

The source pointed out that Saudi Arabia does not accept this demand.

Responding to a question on whether Saudi Arabia is seeking to produce a deal that is close to the Gulf-sponsored agreement — which allowed Hadi to become president in 2012 — the source confirmed the interest of Riyadh to reach such an outcome.

He stated that Saudi Arabia is seeking "personal immunity" for Hadi himself and for his decisions, even if he stays in Saudi Arabia.

On a military level, the source said that the Houthis will withdraw from Sanaa, Al-Hadida and Taez one month after the finalisation of the deal — in case such a stage is reached — in return for Houthi representation in the next government.

Regarding the issue of disarming the Houthis, specific talks will be held on this issue, as it has not been included in talks so far.

The source said the first stage in implementing the potential peace agreement will involve the economy. With economic deterioration clearly witnessed in the country — especially Sanaa — the Shia Houthi militants and their ally Saleh are willing to solve the problem of delayed salaries, even if through the central bank in Aden.

It is not clear yet who will pay the money.

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