Sana’a: Two of the biggest political parties in Yemen have deplored any move to give southern Yemenis more autonomy that could lead to separation of the country.

The General People’s Congress, the party of the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the Islamist Islah party said that they deem secession as a “red line” and any solution to the southern issue should be in “the framework of unity”.

The catalyst for this argument about secession was when the leadership of National Dialogue Conference, which is tasked to frame solutions to the country’s problems, agreed to demands of 85 southern delegates to form a committee of 16 members equally divided between south and north. This move galvanised former president into convening his party and issue strong-worded statement.

“The General People’s Congress and National Alliance Parties reject any outcome of the National Dialogue that undermine unity.” Saleh’s party said in a statement posted on the party’s official website. The party threatened to pull out of the dialogue if talks turned into south-north form.

“I do not think Saleh is serious about walking out of the National Dialogue,” said Ali AlFageh, deputy editor Sana’a-based Al Masder daily. “Saleh is trying to blackmail president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi to keep him out of his party. He sees Hadi as a threat to his control of the party and thinks that Hadi could take the party’s leadership from him, which means that Saleh would be leaving the political arena completely.”

The incumbent president was Saleh’s deputy for 18 years and is currently the second-in command of the party.

“Saleh is eagerly waiting for the end of the transitional period and parliamentary elections in 2014. He thinks that he still has much leverage in the country and can return to power in the next election under any form.”

As for Islah party, an offshoot of Muslim Brotherhood, the president of the party’s higher commission, Mohammad Al Yadoumi told a local affiliated TV that the Yemen unity “unquestionably” represent a red line for his party.

Al Fageh said: “Islah party has not changed its stand from the southern issue. It does not mind any kind of talk even south-north talks as far as it will not lead to separation or a federal system between south and north.”

Unchanged stand

The hard-line factions of the Southern Movement or ‘Al Hirak’, a loose term for forces that have led pro-secession protests since 2007, said that they totally reject the National Dialogue and its results.

“We’ve said from the beginning that we won’t take part in the National Dialogue as the GCC-brokered initiative did not take a clear stand from the southern cause and Hirak did not participate in forming it,” Said Fuad Rashed, a senior separatist leader in the province of Hadramout.

“Let them draw any line; red or green. Their threats do not scare Hirak and will not impede our movement. We will continue in our peaceful struggle until we get independence and regain our state,” he added.

The Southern Movement usually refers to the post 1994 civil war between the south and north as an “occupation”.

“The accurate description to the status quo is that a state occupied another one and the natural solution to the problem is the end of occupation. We are preparing massive rallies on October 11 and 12 to commemorate the revolution [against Britain] and to reject the talks outcome.”

Al Fageh thinks that the scheduled parliamentarian election is unlikely to be held next year.

“The National Dialogue Conference has not produced any positive outcomes and the updated election records are not ready. Also the government has not calmed down the volatile areas where it is possible to held election,” he said.