Government and Houthis to negotiate, no ceasefire yet [Archives:2007/1060/Front Page]

June 18 2007

Mohammed bin Sallam
SA'ADA, June 17 ) Field leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi on Saturday announced a one-sided ceasefire by his fighters in anticipation of similar steps by the Yemeni government.

In a statement, of which the Yemen Times received a copy, Al-Houthi declared, “We announce the halting of violence, fighting and our commitment to the republican system, the Yemeni Constitution and the effective laws of Yemen, as well as implementing the conditions agreed to following mediation by Qatari prince, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.”

The announcement follows mediation efforts over the past month in an attempt to halt the more than five-month-old war in Sa'ada between Houthi loyalists and Yemeni government forces.

The government is expected to announce a ceasefire later according to the agreement between both sides brokered under the patronage of Qatari leadership.

Official sources revealed last Thursday that the Yemeni state will suspend all military operations immediately as soon as “Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, his brothers and their followers halt the fighting and commit to the republican system, the Yemeni Constitution and effective laws, as well as hand over their medium-sized weapons and descend from the mountains and sites they have seized.”

The official announcement falls within conditions aimed at stopping the Sa'ada war. The agreement reached Saturday between both warring sides dictates that Qatar and the committee about to be formed, which will include heads of parliamentary blocs, will guarantee its implementation.

Special sources told the Yemen Times that the two sides have agreed to form two delegations for negotiation. The government delegation will include Col. Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh and Yemeni Ambassador in Cairo Abdulwali Al-Shamiri, while the Houthi delegation will include Abdullah Al-Hakimi, who now resides in Cairo, and fired member of Parliament, Yahya Al-Houthi, who is now in Qatar.

A source close to the Houthis welcomed the Yemeni state's readiness to suspend military operations and affirmed that they too are ready to halt the war on all fronts once “the state's seriousness about this call is confirmed.

“We pledge our full readiness to stop the war on all fronts and we won't carry out any act against the army, except in defense of self or when attacked,” the same source stated.

Informed sources report that the ministers of defense and interior, as well as senior military and security officials, held an extensive meeting Thursday afternoon at the Republican Palace where President Saleh briefed them on the details of the Qatari mediation aimed at halting the war.

Such an exchange of positive announcements is a coronation of the more than month-long efforts of local personalities to halt the Sa'ada war, which erupted in January. Other announcements by both parties are expected soon.

Observers believe the circumstances now are suitable for a peaceful solution, especially when there's no interference by local and influential parties. They further assure that all of the conditions set by the state regarding Houthis handing over their medium-sized weapons and descending from the mountains are indisputable.

“When there's political will and full seriousness by all concerned authorities to halt the war, everything else can be discussed positively. Holding serious dialogue will help prevent future wars from erupting and make all parties resort to the law and the Yemeni Constitution in disputes between varying parties,” observers comment.

According to media sources, Saturday's agreement includes deporting Abdulmalik, Yahya and Abdulkarim Al-Houthi and Abdullah Aidhah Al-Ruzami to Qatar via Saudi Arabia. Further, they are prevented from conducting any political or media activities against Yemen and are not leave Qatar except by consent of the Yemeni government.

The agreement's nine conditions include halting all military operations and insurrection, handing over medium-sized weaponry, freeing those arrested for Houthi links and respecting freedom of expression and the right to establish a political party.

The agreement also states halting all media campaigns and other inciting acts against the Yemeni government. In return, the government will rebuild those cities and areas destroyed by the war.

As for the bloody clashes, last week's confrontations resulted in large numbers of victims on both sides; however, an exact count wasn't provided.

Al-Khaza'en area witnessed a fierce attack by Yemeni army forces using Katyusha missiles, with the same occurring in Al-Abqur, Al-Shat and Azan. The volume of human and material losses remains unknown until now.

Battles also are being fought in Al-Shourif, Jabal Al-Ez in Razih, Khishaf Al-Safra, Al-Amshia road leading to Sa'ada, Al-Shohatah in Munbeh and other areas. Fighting also extended to the outskirts of Sa'ada, with fierce clashes occurring in Al-Humaidan located just 10 km. from Sa'ada city.

Yemeni army forces employing dozens of Katyusha missiles attacked Al-Ja'malah area. Additionally, the owner of a private medical center there was arrested, accused of treating Houthis and his center demolished.

Dozens of army forces fell in Al-Jakhran area near Dhahian city after a friendly missile targeted their site. Similar incidents have occurred in the past, felling large numbers of victims among armed forces.

In a letter to Joint Meeting Parties leaders, former MP Yahya Al-Houthi thanked them for their efforts and their roles aiming to lift Yemen from its plight and further, for working to stop 30 years of Yemeni bloodshed by warlords.

He added that such warlords have built themselves luxury empires and lived off of shedding Yemeni blood. He called on the five opposition parties to continue their struggle, hoping that what he described as “tempters,” will cease the firing upon Sa'ada citizens.

On Sunday, the parties called for an immediate halt to the war and seeking peaceful solutions to it. They further announced their intention to form a national committee whose main task is to end the war, beginning with a call to hold a national conference on the situation.