Yemen's new deal with Houthi rebels

With mediation from Qatar, the Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government have signed an agreement aimed at consolidating the ceasefire announced last February. Reuters reports:

"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 land mines 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."

According to The National, the rebels view the release of prisoners by the Yemeni government as crucial and say there will be no peace unless that happens.

"We cannot accept any compromise in the question of prisoners. The regime and anyone should understand that there cannot be any peace while there are prisoners in jails. Holding even a single prisoner means that tension is still there," Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam is quoted as saying.

Previous efforts to resolve the six-year conflict in northern Yemen have failed at the implementation stage, and this could easily happen again. However, with a deteriorating situation in the south, the government does have a strong incentive to see it through this time.

In the southern province of Abyan yesterday, armed men ambushed a military patrol and killed eight soldiers. Another patrol wasambushed in Lahej province on Friday, leaving one soldier dead and four wounded.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 29 August 2010.