UN-brokered talks aimed at resolving the escalating political crisis in Yemen will be held in Doha, the UN envoy to Yemen has said, after the internationally recognised Yemeni government appealed to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for military assistance.
A day after warning the UN Security Council that Yemen was on the brink of civil war, Jamal Benomar announced on Monday that talks between the Yemeni parties would take place in the Qatari capital, and that any agreement reached would be signed in Riyadh.
Earlier in the day, Prince Saud Al Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, said that his country would “take necessary measures if needed” to protect Yemen’s sovereignty after the country’s government, holed up in the southern port city of Aden, appealed to the GCC members for help.
Iran has been repeatedly accused of supporting the Houthis, the armed group that controls the country’s north, including the capital Sanaa, an allegation both Iran and the Yemeni group deny.
“We are against Iran’s intervention in Yemen … it is actually an act of aggression,” Faisal said.
“We are keen on protecting Yemen’s sovereignty, the legitimacy of Yemen represented by President Hadi.
“We hope that the crisis can be resolved peacefully and we are ready to respond to any demand that the president requests, whatever it is to support him,” he said.
Riyadh Yaseen, Yemen’s newly appointed foreign minister, has asked for military intervention from the GCC and the imposition of a no-fly zone by the UN.
The GCC is an alliance of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE and Oman; and its Peninsula Shield Force boasts about 40,000 troops and has a permanent base in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.
“We’ve had enough, we can’t watch them occupying airports and cities, destroying Yemen’s infrastructure, and we sit there and watch”, Yaseen told Al Jazeera on Monday. “We can’t allow Iran to take over our country.”
The request came a day after Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, the Saudi interior minister, said the GCC was ready to take “all efforts” to defend the country’s security”.
Houthis took over the democratically elected government headed by Hadi in February and appointed Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a cousin of the group’s leader, as the new president.
The GCC countries have since lined up to support Hadi and have moved their embassies to Aden to back Hadi against the group.
Hadi, who is also backed by Western states, has been struggling to reassert his authority since escaping house arrest and fleeing to Aden last month.
The Houthis have continued to seize more parts of the country and on Saturday took control of parts of the strategic city of Taiz, as they pushed further south towards Aden.
The group, which hails from the northern region of Saada, insists its territorial advance is an outgrowth of its growing popular support.
But the Houthis have continued a violent crackdown on opposition protests in the country.
In the latest incident, at least six people were killed after Houthis fired bullets and tear gas to disperse thousands of demonstrators demanding their withdrawal from the southern Yemen, a medical official reported.
Scores of other protesters were also reportedly wounded in the massive demonstrations in the country’s third largest city of Taiz, which the Houthis seized over the weekend.