Al-Zayani to seek Gulf initiative revival

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SANA’A, May 15 — Since his arrival in Sana’a on Saturday, Dr. Abdullatif Al-Zayani, Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), has been making fresh efforts to resolve the crisis between the government and the opposition in Yemen.

His efforts have come in spite of the opposition Joint Meeting Parties’ (JMP) having declared that the initiative had failed and that Qatar’s withdrawal from the process was its final death knell.

Al-Zayani aims to develop a final version of the Gulf proposal that will break Yemen’s political deadlock once and for all. Well-informed sources have said that he has brought a brand new package of suggestions that could very well persuade both the government and the opposition to accept and sign the initiative.

Al-Zayani met with President Ali Abdullah Saleh Sunday morning and was expected to meet with the opposition later that afternoon, so as to solicit each party’s views and interpretation of the Gulf plan. He is particularly keen to persuade the president, who has to this point refused to sign the initiative in its three initial versions. The opposition, in turn, refused to sign the fourth version on 21 April 2011.

The same aforementioned sources said that they expect Al-Zayani’s visit to end with the announcement of a concrete deadline for signing the initiative.

Saba news agency quoted Al-Zayani as saying on his arrival that the objective of his visit was to continue talks with all parties, in the hope that they would all go back to the Gulf plan that aims to preserve Yemen’s security, stability and unity, while at the same time preventing bloodshed.

“We wish to stop all bloodshed,” said Al-Zayani, “and preserve the security, safety and stability of Yemen. These are the principal goals of their majesties and highnesses [of the member GCC countries], as well as of the foreign ministers of the GCC.”

In his communication with the leaders of the GCC, President Saleh described the initiative as “good” but vague. He also told Okaz, a Saudi newspaper, that the plan needed more concrete guidelines and a more robust mechanism for implementation.

According to well-placed sources, in its fifth version, the Gulf proposal bears a practical implementation procedure.

The new initiative will focus on security and political tension, and will propose means of encouraging protesters to lift their sit-ins at the country’s various Change Squares – so as to push Yemen towards a post-revolutionary state, such as that being experienced in Tunisia.

“If both the initiative and its new mechanism are implemented verbatim,” said one of the sources, “Saleh will consider signing it. Otherwise, the JMP will have to take responsibility for its reluctance to sign.”

The source added, “The president does have another option, which is to resort to military action. This is perhaps is next best choice, considering how Hosni Mubarak will stand trial in Egypt and Bin Ali’s extradition has been requested. [If he feels he must], Saleh will fight until the very last drop of blood.”

The Gulf initiative has already undergone several revisions, additions and deletions. According to the Yemeni opposition, these changes have been orchestrated by the GCC at the behest of President Saleh. At the same time, the opposition claims that the GCC has refused any of their proposed modifications.

Al-Yaum, a Saudi newspaper, said in its Sunday editorial that President Saleh was desperately holding on to power and that he had begun accusing his opponents of conspiracy and treason, dubbing them “highwaymen and saboteurs”.

Both the opposition and the demonstrating youth have said that such statements were tantamount to a declaration of war, as they incited citizens to fight one another. They have also said that such violent discourse would make parties cling to their positions even more strongly and that it might encourage some to start recruiting militiamen in the street. This would be of grave concern in a country like Yemen, whose citizens have massive personal arsenals. Any miscalculation by any party could lead to massacres and chaos that would not be easily stopped in the short term.

Al-Yaum also warned against the mobilization of the masses and said that the flexing of muscles would only lead to the complete collapse of public institutions and daily life.

The newspaper continued by saying that the Gulf initiative was the best opportunity for Yemeni political groups to end their conflict and save face, without incurring heavy losses.

At the same time, the ruling Yemeni regime has initiated security measures to counteract a “scheme” allegedly concocted by the JMP to create chaos across the country. In truth, this was the government’s first response to the escalation of the pro-democracy revolution, spearheaded by Yemeni youth.

One part of the protesters’ plan for escalation has been to force the closure of all government offices.

On Saturday evening, President Saleh held an extended meeting with his government, the ruling General People’s Congress (GPC). As stated by official media, the meeting was dedicated to the “discussion of developments in the country, in view of the JMP’s intransigent position on escalation and sabotage.”

President Saleh accused the opposition of carrying out attacks on public and private property, of blocking roads, of preventing access to gas and fuel, of destroying electrical towers, and of attacking and killing soldiers.

He said, “There are some leaders within the JMP who are thirsty for blood and for the killing of innocent people, which they hope to blame on the government, so as to incite and mislead people.”