Yemen ex-President Saleh offers talks to Saudi-led coalition

22 views

The former president of Yemen has suggested that he is open to talking to the Saudi-led coalition that his forces have been fighting for years.

Ali Abdullah Saleh said on TV that he would be ready to “turn the page” if the coalition lifted a blockade on northern Yemen and halted its attacks.

The coalition praised his offer but Houthi rebels, his allies until this week, accused him of a “coup”.

Clashes between Mr Saleh’s forces and Houthi fighters broke out on Wednesday.

The Houthis are backed by Iran but have been his allies against the internationally-recognised government since 2014.

There were reports of further fighting on the streets of the capital, Sanaa, on Saturday. Explosions and gunfire were concentrated in the southern suburbs of the city, where relatives of Mr Saleh live.

The two groups had been fighting the government of current President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi together for nearly three years.

Clashes erupted when Mr Saleh’s supporters accused Houthi rebels of breaking into the city’s main mosque complex.

The rift between forces who had been fighting side by side could have significant implications for Yemen’s civil war.

“I call on our brothers in neighbouring countries… to stop their aggression and lift the blockade… and we will turn the page,” Mr Saleh said in a TV address.

He condemned the Houthis for a “blatant assault” on members of his party, the General People’s Congress.

In a statement, the coalition responded: “The decision by (Ali Abdullah Saleh’s) General People’s Congress to take the lead and their choice to side with their people will free Yemen of… militias loyal to Iran.”

A Houthi spokesman said: “Saleh’s speech is a coup against our alliance and partnership… and exposed the deception of those who claim to stand against aggression.”

More than 8,670 people have been killed and 49,960 injured since a Saudi-led coalition backing Mr Hadi intervened in the conflict in 2015, according to the UN.

The conflict and a blockade by the coalition has also left 20.7 million people in need of humanitarian aid, created the world’s largest food security emergency, and led to a cholera outbreak that is thought to have killed 2,211 people since April.