Houthi rebels in talks with Yemen government

Conflicting reports over progress of negotiations between government and rebels but both sides say talks have begun.

    The Huthis have been battling security forces for months for control of key cities north of Sanaa [Reuters]
    The Huthis have been battling security forces for months for control of key cities north of Sanaa [Reuters]

    Yemen's government and Shia Muslim Houthi rebels have resumed talks in a bid to end a crisis that has seen weeks of sometimes bloody protests in the capital.

    On Thursday, a member of the government's negotiating team said both sides had signed an agreement that included a further reduction of fuel prices and the formation of a new government to end the crisis.

    But later in the day there was some confusion of the level progress in the negotiations. 

    The Defence Ministry's website said a political breakthrough was "imminent" and one Houthi member was also optimistic about a breakthrough.

    But Mohammed Abdulsalam, a spokesman for the Houthis, said on his Facebook page: "We have not reached a final agreement or signed a deal and communications are continuing.

    Later, a member of the Houthis' political bureau, Abdel Malik al-Ijri, said without elaborating that the main issues had
    been agreed and "small issues" remained to be settled. 

    A diplomatic source in Sanaa tempered optimism and said the two sides were far from agreement.

    "Nothing has been signed as of yet and nothing has been agreed to. There are ideas that are being thrown back and forth. 

    "For political reasons, each side is trying to say the negotiations are ongoing. It's way of calming the nerves," the
    source told Reuters.
     
    The Houthis, who follow the small Zaidi branch of Shia Islam, have been embroiled in a decade-old conflict with the
    central government in Sunni-dominated Sanaa, fighting for more territory and control in the north.

    Fuel subsidies
     

    Inside Story: Is Yemen headed for more conflict?

    In the past weeks, they have capitalised on an unpopular decision by the government to reverse fuel subsidies to launch protests in the capital Sanaa.

    Houthi protesters have been blocking the main road to Sanaa's airport and holding sit-ins for weeks at ministries in
    an attempt to oust the government and restore fuel subsidies.

    On Tuesday, hundreds marched on the government headquarters, sparking clashes with police that left seven protesters and a paramedic dead.

    Witnesses said thousands of supporters of the rebels staged a sit-in north of the capital on Thursday to protest against the deaths and demand that their "murderers" be brought to justice.

    The Huthis have been battling security forces for months for control of key cities north of Sanaa.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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