RIYADH: For the first time in more than a decade, almost all of Yemen’s feuding leaders came together in one building in Riyadh in a bid to settle their disputes.
The Gulf Cooperation Council last month invited all Yemeni political, tribal and religious leaders, journalists, activists, economists and the heads of nongovernmental organizations to join unprecedented talks in the Saudi capital under its aegis to examine and propose solutions to the country’s problems.
With the exception of the Iran-backed Houthis, who turned down the invitation, hundreds of people engaged in the talks to draw up a road map for bringing peace and stability to war-torn Yemen.
During the discussions, members of the General People’s Congress — the party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh — exchanged views for hours with supporters of the Islamist Islah party, which led the Arab Spring-inspired protests against Saleh in 2011.
The leaders of the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council discussed ideas with those they fought in Aden in 2018 and 2019.
Sarhan Al-Minaikher, the GCC ambassador to Yemen, said that almost 1,000 people participated in the Yemeni-Yemeni consultations, and that the participants were left in closed rooms to privately, transparently and directly exchange views without any interference from the Gulf bloc or any other country.
The most important outcome of the consultations was the formation of the Presidential Leadership Council, a body of eight people, led by Rashad Al-Alimi and comprising Yemeni leaders representing different parties, including separatists and Saleh’s supporters.
On Thursday, former President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi passed powers to the new council and empowered it to run the country and negotiate with the Houthis.
During the closing ceremony, the participants came out with recommendations that called upon the new presidential body to start engaging in talks with the Houthis to end the war, supported boosting and reforming state bodies, and allowed them to function in Yemen.
The participants also called for fighting terrorism, opening roads between Yemeni cities that were closed during the war and seeking an international donor conference for mobilizing funds to the country.
The Riyadh consultations are the latest in a string of initiatives and peace ideas proposed by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf bloc and the UN to bring an end to the violence.
The current fighting in Yemen began in late 2014 when the Houthis, with support from Saleh and Iran, seized control of Sanaa and put Hadi under house arrest.
In February 2015, Hadi managed to escape from Sanaa to the southern city of Aden where he regrouped his forces and vowed to challenge the Houthis.
The UN and many local organizations say that tens of thousands of Yemenis have been killed in the war that has pushed most of the country’s 30 million people to the brink of famine.
Before the Houthi capture of Sanaa, the GCC mediated peace initiatives to end the violence in Yemen.