Supporters of former Yemeni strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh and the country’s Houthi rebels accepted the terms of a United Nations-brokered peace plan on Tuesday, Gulf media reported.
Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition supporting Saleh’s successor, Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi, said they had driven the Houthis out of Ma’rib, a province in the center of Yemen.
The United Arab Emirates, one of the countries in the alliance that supports Hadi’s restoration, said Houthi emissaries had flown to Tehran on a mission to elicit further Iranian support.
The Arab Gulf states have accused their rival Iran of inciting the Houthi insurgency. But although the Shia state has supported the rebels, who adhere to an offshoot of Shia Islam, their rebellion against Yemen’s central government had been festering for years before they forced Hadi to resign in January.
The conflict came to a head when the Houthis allied with Saleh loyalists to block Hadi’s constitutional reform plan that would have split Yemen up into six autonomous regions. The Houthis said the scheme would have eroded national unity.
It was also resisted by separatists in the former South Yemen who have since formed the backbone of the anti-Houthi fighting forces.
Although the support of Saleh’s party, the General People’s Congress, for a truce may be a step toward resolving the conflict, it is unlikely to bring Hadi’s restoration closer.
The internationally-recognized president — who was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia earlier this year when the Houthis first took Sana’a, the capital, and then the southern port city of Aden — does not command a following of his own.
His foreign backers have had to rely on southern separatists and Yemen’s Muslim Brotherhood to help push back the Houthis.
Ironically, it was fear of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover in 2012 that compelled Saudi Arabia to facilitate Saleh’s ouster at the time.
Saleh, a northerner, presided over Yemen’s unification in 1990 and had ruled the country since.
The nominally pro-Hadi coalition recaptured Aden in July and now says it is marching on Sana’a. Saudi jets regularly bombard the city. The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 Yemenis have been killed in the conflict so far, nearly half of the civilians.