Cairo: Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi called on the United Nations and donors to support his country’s political transition, as UN Security Council members made an unprecedented visit to Sana’a on Sunday. Hadi called on the Council members to regard those refusing to take part in upcoming national reconciliation talks as undermining the country’s political transition.
Such a move could put Yemen’s secessionist Southern Movement within the scope of a 2012 Security Council resolution, which threatened sanctions against obstructive forces in the Arabian Peninsula nation.
The Southern Movement, which seeks independence or autonomy for the former state of Southern Yemen, is the only major political force refusing to take part in the National Dialogue Conference.
Southerners have complained of marginalisation and abuses by the authorities since the former southern army was defeated in a 1994 civil war.
Britain’s U.N. representative Mark Lyall Grant, speaking at a news conference in Sanaa after talks with President Hadi, warned what he called a minority against spoiling reconciliation efforts.
Witnesses said thousands of Yemeni troops backed by armoured vehicles and helicopters were deployed across Sanaa as the ambassadors arrived for the one-day trip. Grant said the visit was the first to Yemen by the Security Council and the first it had made for five years to the Middle East.
“We have noticed that a minority are trying to obstruct the political process,” he said through a translator, adding that under U.N. Security Council Resolution 2014 the council had the power to take steps against those who blocked reconciliation.
He did not name anyone, but the political reforms being pursed by Hadi include restructuring the armed forces to weaken the influence of the family of his predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The conference, which is expected to start in March, is a key step in Yemen’s internationally backed transition process, which started with last year’s handover of power to Hadi from long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Speaking at a conference marking the UN Security Council members’ visit, Hadi also called on donors to fulfil their commitments to his country, saying: “The roots of Yemen’s problem are of an economic nature.”
The Security Council delegation, headed by the British and Moroccan representatives to the UN, was on a one-day visit to Sana’a aimed at showing support for Hadi and the country’s transition process.
UN envoy on Yemen Jamal Benomar said the international community was committed to supporting Yemen’s transition process.
“There will be no return to the past, to the time of chaos, corruption and monopolisation of power,” Benomar told the conference to loud applause.
Under the power transfer deal, Hadi is overseeing reforms for a two-year interim period to ensure a transition to democracy. Presidential and parliamentary elections are expected in 2014.
Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abubakr Al Qirbi said the Security Council’s visit was to “help Yemen reach the general elections in February 2014 ... They will not allow anyone to stop the wheels of change.”
Speaking to reporters after talks with the envoys, Hadi said dialogue was the only way to resolve Yemen’s problems and urged international donors to meet their financial pledges.
Members of a Yemen-based branch of Al Qaeda have launched a series of bombings in the capital since its members and allies were ejected from strongholds they occupied in southern Yemen during the turmoil of 2011.
Local media reported tight security in Sana’a, with army and security forces deployed across the city.
Motorcycles - which have been used in a series of killings of security officials in recent months - were barred from the capital for the duration of the one-day visit, independent newspaper al-Masdar reported online.
Supporters of the 2011 youth-led revolution against Saleh meanwhile took to the streets to demand that his immunity from prosecution be lifted.
Hadi, who took over from Saleh last February under an internationally backed peace deal, has been seeking to unify the divided army and achieve national reconciliation.
The presence of Al Qaida-affiliated insurgents, the collapse of government authority in much of the country and widespread poverty have all made Yemen a priority for international action, say observers.