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Yemen: Houthis and government sign peace agreement - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English
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Yemen: Houthis and government sign peace agreement

Armed Yemeni Shi’ite Houthi anti-government rebels shout slogans as they man a checkpoint erected after the Houthi group seized northern districts of the Yemeni capital Sana’a on September 21, 2014. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Huwais)
Armed Yemeni Shi’ite Houthi anti-government rebels shout slogans as they man a checkpoint erected after the Houthi group seized northern districts of the Yemeni capital Sana’a on September 21, 2014. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Huwais)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Yemeni government and Houthi rebels signed an agreement to form a new government on Sunday, following the resignation of the prime minister, and days of fighting between the rebels and government forces in the capital, Sana’a.

Houthi rebels seized control of government buildings and the country’s main military complex on Sunday after earlier fighting between them and government forces in the capital, later brokering an agreement to end the hostilities and appoint a new government.

The new UN-brokered deal was signed in the presence of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, UN Special Adviser on Yemen Jamal Benomar, and representatives of the country’s main political factions. Under the terms of the agreement, a new, independent prime minister will be appointed to head an interim government of technocrats within three days, until a new government can be formed in a month’s time. In addition, two advisers to President Hadi will be appointed from among the ranks of the Houthis and the southern separatist Al-Hirak movement. The Houthis also agreed to dismantle their protest camps in the capital.

Prime Minister Mohamed Basindawa resigned shortly before the signing of the agreement, saying he hoped his departure from office would make it easier for President Hadi to find a solution to the crisis.

Ali Al-Qahoum, a member of the Houthis’ Political Bureau, hailed the agreement, and said it would see the formation of a new government representative of all the major political forces in the country.

However, presidential sources said the Houthis refused to sign an annex to the agreement, which stipulates that the movement vacate the government buildings it has taken over.

Despite their refusal, President Hadi declared a ceasefire after the signing of the agreement.

Followers of the Shi’ite movement have been staging month-long protests outside government buildings in the capital, calling for the reinstatement of fuel subsidies and the appointment of a new government. The protests have been accompanied by fierce fighting in Sana’a which saw armed members of the group take over the airport last week, and the main armed forces building, parliament, the central bank, state television building, and the ministries of interior, defense and finance on Sunday.

Military sources said the Houthis now had effective control of more than half of the capital.

Interior Minister Hussein Al-Tarb called on Sunday for the country’s security apparatus and government employees to cooperate with the Houthi rebels in control of government buildings, urging that no-one in any of the buildings “clash with [the Houthis] or enter into any kind of conflict.”

In a statement released by the Interior Ministry, he said: “Cooperation with [the Houthi rebels] will help restore security and stability and help protect public property and government buildings . . . Consider [the Houthis] friends of the police.”

Sources said armed forces personnel had handed over the state television building to the group. The Houthis have since said, however, that they will return control of the state television building to military police.

Despite these developments, the situation on the ground remained tense, with a number of Sana’a residents speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat saying that the Houthis had warned them to leave their homes.

Additional reporting from Sana’a by Hamdan Al-Rabhi.

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