THE LEVANT – Talks between a committee appointed by Yemen’s President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to mediate with the leader of the Houthi movement occupying protests sites around the capital broke down on Sunday, amid rising tensions in Sana’a.
The movement, led by Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, has massed thousands of its members on the outskirts of Sana’a since the start of last week, demanding that the Yemeni government resign and restore fuel subsidies that were recently slashed as part of an economic reform package.
Houthis militants were soon joined by tens of thousands of anti-government supporters and Houthi sympathizers as more understood the opportunity which Al Houthi opened up before them by forcing the government to negotiate.
While the government offered to resign within a month on Saturday and appoint a technocratic, national unity administration in its stead, officials say the Houthis demanded the immediate restoration of fuel subsidies, leading to the failure of talks.
A spokesman of the presidential committee, Abdul Malik Al-Mikhlafi, said in a statement to the press: “The Houthis seem intent on war and have rejected all proposals.”
Mikhlafi alleged that the Houthis reneged on previous agreements, including their participation in a new government and an offer to lower fuel prices. He said the Houthis threatened to escalate their protests if the decision to lift fuel subsidies was not cancelled.
Meanwhile, Daifallah Al-Shami, a Houthi leader, said the demand for the reinstatement of fuel subsidies was not negotiable and that the “peaceful” protests would continue.
Houthi Political Affairs official Hussein Al-Azzi confirmed that discussions between representatives of the movement and the presidential committee in Saada reached a dead-end after three days of talks.
He said: “This is a governmental committee, not a presidential one, and it deliberately tried to not reach a result with [the Houthis] in Saada.”
He added: “The committee left Saada suddenly and returned to Sana’a despite the fact that we had a meeting arranged for Sunday to deliver our views to President Hadi, and the committee should have delivered these views.”
President Hadi, meanwhile, held an emergency meeting with senior military and security officials to discuss the situation in Sana’a and the Houthis stronghold of Amran. The president called for the military and security services to be vigilant and to increase their readiness levels in preparation for any possible confrontation.
Security measures were tightened around the Yemeni capital as a result of the failure of the mediation efforts.