Yemen rebel ally Saleh says open to talks with Saudis

Huthi rebel fighters walk in the Yemeni capital Sanaa
Huthi rebel fighters walk in the Yemeni capital Sanaa

03 December, 2017

In a televised speech on December 2, Saleh called on the Saudi-led coalition to pave the way for an end to nearly three years of war by stopping attacks and lifting a siege on the country.

The coalition has been fighting to defeat the Iran-backed Houthis along with Mr Saleh's forces in Yemen since March 2015.

He says a new page must be opened in relations (with Saudi Arabia) and neighborly ties restored, putting an end to all (the animosity) that has taken place and that amicable relations can resume once there is a cease-fire (with the Saudi-led coalition) and their blockade of Yemeni ports and airports is lifted. The Sunni-ruled kingdom heads a military coalition allied with the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi.

Street fighting in the war-wracked country comes amid heightened regional tensions, most notably after Houthi rebels early last month launched a missile that was intercepted near the Saudi capital.

"I call on our brothers in neighboring stop their aggression and lift the blockade", he said, "and we will turn the page".

The clashes between Mr Saleh's supporters and the Houthis underscore the complex situation in Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, where a proxy war between the Iran-aligned Houthis and the Saudi-backed Mr Hadi has caused one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in recent times.

"We will deal with them in a positive way and what happened to Yemen is enough", he added.

Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh addresses supporters in the capital Sanaa
Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh addresses supporters in the capital Sanaa

In 2011, Yemen fell into chaos after an uprising deposed Saleh.

The United Nations has warned that the country faces mass starvation unless the Saudi-led coalition allows more food aid to enter the impoverished country.

The Houthis accused Mr Saleh of betrayal, and vowed to keep up the fight against the Saudi-led coalition.

He told Yemenis all across the country that if they support him, "to defend the nation, the republic and the revolution".

The Houthis' Ansarullah group, in a statement issued on its Twitter account, described the clashes as "regrettable".

"I appeal to the leader Saleh to show more wisdom and maturity. and not to heed incitement calls", Abdel-Malek al-Houthi said in a speech on the group's Al-Masirah TV, adding that his group was ready to sit down for arbitration and abide by any ruling.

Stressing that Yemen's interests lie in avoiding sedition, the Houthi leader called on citizens and tribal fighters to focus on the battle against the invading Saudi regime and stay away from any provocative acts.

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