Yemenis protest UN roadmap for peace

Yemeni Huthi rebels take part in a gathering to mobilise more fighters into several battlefronts on Nov 1 ,2016 on the outskirts of the capital Sanaa.
Yemeni Huthi rebels take part in a gathering to mobilise more fighters into several battlefronts on Nov 1 ,2016 on the outskirts of the capital Sanaa.PHOTO: AFP

ADEN (AFP, REUTERS) - Thousands of Yemenis protested on Thursday (Nov 3) against a UN plan to end a 19-month conflict between rebels and the government, which the president rejected as "not a map for peace".

Protesters in Aden rallied against the plan following a call by authorities in the southern city, witnesses said.

"We reject the plan of (UN special envoy Ismail) Ould Cheikh (Ahmed)," read one of the banners carried by demonstrators.

"No to an initiative that legitimises the coup," said another.

President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi rejected on Saturday ( Oct 29) the envoy's peace plan, saying it "only opens a door towards more suffering and war".

Mr Hadi enjoys the backing of a Saudi-led Arab coalition that launched a military campaign in March 2015 after the rebels closed in on his refuge in Aden, forcing him to flee to Riyadh.

The contents of the roadmap, which the envoy presented to the rebels on Tuesday (Nov 1), have not been made public.

But informed sources say it calls for agreement on naming a new vice-president after the rebels withdraw from the capital Sanaa and other cities and hand over heavy weapons to a third party.

Mr Hadi would then transfer power to the vice-president, who would appoint a new prime minister to form a government in which the north and south of Yemen would have equal representation.

Hundreds of people rallied on Thursday (Nov 3) in Marib, east of Sanaa, and in the southeastern province of Hadramawt, witnesses said.

Mr Hadi said the new plan was an "explicit departure" from the UN Security Council's resolution 2216, which calls on rebels to withdraw from territory they have captured since 2014.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels said on Sunday (Oct 30) that a new UN peace plan was a "basis for discussion" despite containing "fundamental flaws".

The conflict has killed nearly 7,000 people since the coalition launched military operations in Yemen in March 2015, according to the United Nations.

On Thursday, a military official said eight rebels and five pro-Hadi soldiers were killed in clashes in central Taez province.

Eleven rebels were wounded in the fighting in Salo district, which forced most its 5,000 residents to flee, the official said.

Diplomats promoting the UN plan to end Yemen's war detect cautious support for its ideas from Saudi Arabia, raising hopes the proposals might unlock stalled efforts to end the 19-month-old conflict and a worsening humanitarian disaster.

A senior diplomat at the United Nations told Reuters that Saudi Arabia appeared broadly to accept the initiative and had encouraged Mr Hadi to deal with it.

"As far as I'm aware, the Saudis have accepted the roadmap ... they have certainly done a very good job behind the scenes of encouraging Hadi to get closer on the spectrum of accepting it than he previously was," said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The United Arab Emirates, another key country in the coalition, said last week that it supported the plan. Neither the Saudi nor Yemeni governments immediately responded to a Reuters request for comment.