Political Analysis

Yemen dialogue “likely” to take place abroad: JMP spokesman

National Yemen

Mohammed Nagi Allou

Asharq Al-Awsat- Yemen’s rival political parties are moving closer to reaching an agreement regarding the location of UN-brokered dialogue to end the political crisis that has gripped the country since the Houthi takeover of Sana’a last year, a Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) official said.

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, JMP spokesman Mohamed Nagi Allou said: “President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi will participate in the dialogue. A number of Arab capitals are being discussed as possible locations for this dialogue which is being sponsored by the UN.”

Allou made his comments following a meeting with President Hadi in Aden. The JMP has been meeting with Yemen’s president as part of political negotiations, with Hadi seeking to form a new government in the southern port city. The previous government, led by Prime Minister Khaled Bahah, resigned earlier this year after the Houthis placed a number of senior officials, including the president and prime minister, under house arrest. Hadi was able to escape house arrest in Sana’a earlier this month and both the Arab League and UN have recognized him as Yemen’s legitimate leader, something that the Houthis contest.

UN Special Envoy Jamal Benomar is working with both the Houthis and Hadi to reach an agreement to end the political deadlock in the country. While both sides have agreed to attend UN-brokered talks, they have yet to agree on a location for the negotiations.

“The UN Security Council and the Yemeni President and other parties have tasked UN envoy Jamal Benomar with choosing a location for the dialogue. In this sense, his decision will be binding on all parties. We had hoped to hold the dialogue in Yemen, but this will now likely take place abroad,” Allou said.

Hadi has refused to attend dialogue in Houthi-controlled Sana’a, citing security concerns, while both the Houthis and the ruling General People’s Congress expressed an unwillingness to attend any negotiations outside of the Yemeni capital. A number of Arab capitals have been proposed as alternative locations, although it is unlikely that Riyadh could host any meeting after it officially outlawed the Houthi group.

Responding to a question as to whether Saudi Arabia could play host to any Hadi-Houthi dialogue, Allou told Asharq Al-Awsat: “This may be a source of embarrassment for Riyadh, particularly as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has placed the Houthis on its list of designated terrorist groups. But there are other Arab states that may be acceptable, like Kuwait or the UAE or Jordan.”

As for whether the Houthis would be prepared to withdraw their armed fighters from the capital’s streets, something that the Shi’ite group has pledged to do before, he said: “This is one of the guarantees of the dialogue. For our part, we have called on all parties in the JMP to engage in the dialogue in good faith.”

“They [the Houthis] must lift the house arrest of the prime minister and some ministers and allow the government to return to carrying out its functions. They must agree to stop interfering in government affairs and confirm their withdrawal [from the streets of Sana’a],” he said.

“Of course, the issue of withdrawal will take time but we are committed to ensuring a correct and safe climate for the government to resume its work,” Allou added.