Skip to main content

UN-led talks on Yemen to begin in Doha as Saudi Arabia backs Hadi

Saudi Arabia will ‘take necessary measures if needed' to protect Yemen's sovereignty as five killed in anti-Houthi protests
Forces loyal to Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, deploy out of Aden (AFP)

UN-brokered talks aimed at resolving the political crisis in Yemen will be held in Doha, the UN envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar announced late on Monday.

While he indicated that all parties would attend, there has been no official statement from the Houthis as yet.

The announcement came on the back of a strongly worded statement by Saudi Arabia in which foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, said that Riyadh would "take necessary measures if needed" to protect Yemen's sovereignty.

The promise of assistance was in response to pleas from Aden-based officials, including a call from Riyadh Yaseen, Yemen's newly appointed foreign minister, who asked for GCC military intervention and the imposition of a no-fly zone by the UN on Monday.

"We are keen on protecting Yemen’s sovereignty, the legitimacy of Yemen represented by President [Abd Rabbuh Manṣur] Hadi,” said Faisal.

"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.”

Faisal also alluded to Iran, which has been repeatedly accused of supporting the Shiite Houthis, the armed group that now controls the north of Yemen, including its capital Sanaa.

"We are against Iran's intervention in Yemen ... it is actually an act of aggression," Faisal said.

While Iran has admitted providing assistance to the Houthis, the extent of its involvement has been hotly contested.  

This is the first time that Saudi Arabia officially announced its support of Hadi who stepped down in February after Houthi militias stormed his presidential compound in Sanaa and placed him and many of his ministers under de facto house arrest. Hadi was later able to flee to Aden where he has been trying to gather support to try and fight back the Houthis.

It is also a reversal of Saudi strategy in recent years which saw the country support the Houthis - with whom they once went to war - in order to combat the advance Yemen's Islamist group al-Islah, as MEE has previously reported.

Houthis continue south, west

Since their capture of Sanaa, the Houthis have continued to march south and west and, according to some analysts, could be planning a wider assault on Aden in a bid to dislodge Hadi.

On Tuesday, Houthi militias allegedly killed five protesters and wounded 80 others in the southern Yemeni city of Taez where demonstrations against the Houthi advance have been held for three consecutive days, including on Sunday when MEE captured the scenes in this video.

On Tuesday, Houthis attacked the demonstrators as they gathered to protest due to the militia's arrival in Taez, local and medical sources told AFP.

It remains unclear how much of Taez is in Houthi control, with some reports indicating they had seized the city’s airport and others saying that routes out of the city, as well as major government installations, continued to be controlled by pro-Hadi forces.

Military sources in south Yemen said that reinforcements from the army's Al-Hamza Brigade - which is under the command of previous Yemeni president Ali Abdallah Saleh's command - had been mobilised from central Ibb province to Qatabah, in Dali, some 120 kilometres north of Aden.

Hadi has contended for months that Saleh, in collusion with the Iran-backed Houthis, is attempting to retake the country.

Dozens of tanks belonging to the 133rd Brigade, also loyal to Saleh, were sent to Qatabah on Tuesday, military sources and witnesses said.

The reinforcements came as anti-Hadi forces deployed south of Taez, which lies strategically on the road between Sanaa and Aden.

30 killed in clashes

In a separate incident in central Yemen, at least 30 people were killed in clashes between pro and anti-Hadi forces, tribal sources said.

According to sources who spoke to AFP on the condition of anonymity, the violence began late on Monday and continued into Tuesday with Houthi militias, backed by troops allied to Saleh, clashing with armed tribesmen in the Bayda province.

The tribesmen booby-trapped two houses used as bases by Houthi militants and ambushed several patrols, the sources added.

Clashes also raged overnight Monday in Marib, east of Sanaa, where tribesmen loyal to Hadi confronted advancing Houthi militias and pro-Saleh troops, which reportedly included units from the former presidential guard, an elite force Saleh built during his three-decade rule.

Six tribesmen, including a tribal chief, and an unknown number of Houthis were killed, according to sources.

Benomar, the UN envoy, warned on Sunday that Yemen was on the brink of civil war. The UN Security Council subsequently issued a statement unanimously affirming its support for Hadi and the council’s commitment to the unity of Yemen.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.