- Title: YEMEN: Yemenis react to peace deal which calls for political dialogue
- Date: 31st August 2010
- Summary: SHOPPERS ON A STREET IN SANAA
- Embargoed: 15th September 2010 00:23
- Location: Yemen
- Country: Yemen
- Topics: War / Fighting,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA51QQ6NXMPH5SKDPIAYR56BPRV
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: The latest agreement in Doha between Yemen's government and northern Shi'ite rebels to bolster a fragile truce and start political dialogue to end an armed conflict that has raged on and off since 2004 was a cheerful development for the Yemeni people who are suffering from growing political turmoil and violence in the poor Arab country.
Many on the streets of Sanaa said they were hopeful good would come of the agreement.
"Yes, we are optimistic and it will bring good, God willing, it (the Doha agreement) will have positive effects, and I advise every wise citizen to put the interest of the country ahead of everything," said student Ashraf Al-Hakim.
"If the ruling party and the rebels are honest, God willing, the dialogue will succeed," added street vendor Faraj Abdullah.
The deal, that was signed in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, where Yemeni officials and rebels have been in talks for four days last week, was a glimmer of hope of creating a security and economic stability to the country.
Successful implementation of the deal would also be a relief to the government, which is struggling to curb a rising southern separatist movement and a resurgent al Qaeda wing that has increasingly targeted the state in recent months.
The Qatar-mediated deal, signed late on Thursday (August 26), calls for "a final close to the war and the start of political dialogue."
Yemeni delegations hammered out a 22-point agreement that would guide both sides to meeting obligations under a February truce which had been punctuated with violence from both sides.
Politicians and observers see a wide window for success of the peace dialogue as the government and the rebels are both exhausted after six rounds of fighting in Saada province that left thousands of people dead and displaced around 300,000 civilians since the conflict started in 2004.
"The most important factor for success of this dialogue is the fact that all parties are exhausted, and no one wants the conflict to rage again, but we should not forget that there are parties who are harmed by any peace deal," said Ahmed al-Sufi, who heads the Yemeni Institute for Development of Democracy.
Hassan Zaid, head of the Haq party that is close to the rebels, says the 22-point agreement was a detailed deal for the six-point cease-fire peace deal that was agreed on by the government and the rebels in February.
Qatar, trying to bolster its image as a regional Gulf Arab peacemaker, brokered a north Yemen peace accord in 2008 before the region slipped back into war and last year drew in top oil exporter and regional power Saudi Arabia.
"We believe we should support the ruling party in any issue that it manages to resolve, because such a breakthrough could help prepare the political climate for a competitive elections based on equal chances," Zaid said.
The war between the state and Shi'ite rebels, who complain of religious and economic discrimination, has displaced 350,000 people. Despite the truce, sporadic clashes in the north, particularly between rebels and pro-government tribes, have killed dozens of people.
Among the main points of the agreement, rebels were required to return stolen Yemeni military weapons to their Qatari mediator, while the government would release rebel prisoners -- a main rebel demand before the talks.
Other points called for the removal of landmines throughout the region, a guarantee of safe passage from both sides allowing displaced people to return home, and the release of any schools, government buildings, or homes that had been seized.
The Yemeni government was represented by security and military officials. The absence of the politicians was seen by the rebels as a clear indication to the their control over most of the Saada areas. Analysts close to the government, however, think the agreement did not deal with political but rather military issues.
Yemen has faced increasing pressure from Saudi Arabia and Western powers to resolve domestic conflicts in order to focus on al Qaeda, which they fear will use instability in the Arabian Peninsula state to launch attacks regionally and beyond.
Al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing claimed responsibility for a failed bomb attack on a U.S.-bound plane in December and has carried out attacks on Saudi, British, and Yemeni targets.
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