Thursday, July 28, 2016

Yemen's Houthis, Ousted Leader Formalize Alliance
JULY 28, 2016, 2:13 P.M. E.D.T.

SANAA, Yemen — Yemen's Shiite rebels on Thursday announced a formal alliance with the country's ousted president and his former ruling party by setting up a new political council to rule the country, a step described by the United Nations Envoy to Yemen as jeopardizing peace talks in Kuwait.

The rebels, known as Houthis or Ansar Allah, signed a deal with the General People's Congress, led by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, agreeing to form a council of 10 members, five from each party. According to a statement posted by the official news agency SABA, the two sides said they will work together to confront the Saudi-led military coalition, which supports the internationally-recognized government months after it fled the country. The Houthis have controlled the capital, Sanaa, since 2014.

The parties which signed the deal said that it was prompted by "the insolence of the Saudi assault and its coalition in continuing to kill our people and destroy public and private properties."

Saleh and the Houthis have been already been allied since 2014. The two sides were adversaries when Saleh ruled Yemen and fought each other for six years until 2010. But the longtime autocrat was forced out in a 2011 popular uprising. Under terms of the deal brokered to remove him from power, Saleh received immunity from any prosecution. But he remained in Yemen and army and security troops loyal to him helped the Houthis drive the internationally recognized government from the capital.

While the northern region remains under Houthi control, much of the southern region is held by the Saudi-backed government and allied southern tribal militias.

The new agreement, which doesn't change much on the ground, is expected to bring back Saleh to the forefront of Yemen's conflict, and further complicate the difficult U.N. peace talks in Kuwait between the Houthis and the government.

Those talks have been stalling amid fundamental disputes over the agenda. President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi demands implementation of the U.N. security council resolution which stipulates the withdrawal of militias from all cities. The Houthis demand a share of power in any new government.

The United Nations declared a ceasefire in April, however both sides have breached the truce several times.

Yemeni government spokesman Rageh Badi said the agreement is "not worth the ink it is written with" but said it gave a clear-cut picture of the "coup partners" involved in the rebel takeover of the capital. He added in a phone interview with the Qatari-based Al-Jazeera network that the agreement also "fired a bullet at the talks."

The U.N. Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said that the new alliance represents a violation of the international resolutions and urged both sides to "refrain from unilateral actions that undermine political transition."

"Announcing a unilateral governing arrangement is not in line with the peace process and endangers substantial progress made in Kuwait," he added in posts on his official Twitter account.

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