Yemen opens talks with Shia rebels on peace deal

DOHA — The Yemeni government has opened talks with Shiite rebels on implementing a February peace deal that halted the last round of fighting in the northern mountains, the two sides said on Wednesday.

By (AFP)

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Published: Tue 24 Aug 2010, 9:08 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 5:51 AM

The talks’ Qatari hosts imposed a news blackout on the negotiations and did not disclose the venue.

Delegations from the two sides arrived in the Qatari capital Doha on Sunday, Yemeni officials and a rebel spokesman said.

“Negotiations are ongoing... This is not to reach a new agreement but to put in place mechanisms to apply previous agreements,” a Yemeni diplomatic source told AFP.

Rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdel Salam told AFP by telephone that their main demand was “the liberation of prisoners.” It is estimated that around 1,000 rebel supporters remain in government custody.

“Our other demands include the development and reconstruction of the marginalised provinces of north Yemen, where services, water, roads and schools are lacking, and the respect of our political and religious rights,” the spokesman added.

The rebels draw their support from among followers of the Zaidi branch of Shiite Islam, who are in the minority in mainly Sunni Yemen but form the majority comunity in the north.

There have been six rounds of fighting between the rebels and government troops since the uprising first erupted in 2004. The conflict has killed thousands of people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

The last round of fighting began with a government offensive in August last year and saw border clashes between the rebels and Saudi troops. It ended with a six-point peace plan, including a ceasefire that has largely held.

During a visit to the Yemeni capital Sanaa on July 13, Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani expressed willingness to assist in finding a “solution that would help preserve the unity of Yemen.”

Qatar helped broker the first peace agreement between the rebels and the government in June 2007.

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