‘Power can’t be taken by force’: Yemen lawlessness must be put to an end, FM Mekhlafi tells RT

A man stands on the wreckage of a house destroyed by a Saudi-led air strike in Yemen's Red Sea port city of Houdieda, December 21, 2015. © Abduljabbar Zeyad
A national peace dialogue can’t be held between a legitimate political party and an armed group aiming to take power by force, Yemeni foreign minister Abdulmalik Mekhlafi told RT Arabic, calling for an end to lawlessness via by abiding the UNSC resolution.

The legitimacy of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who came to power after the overthrow of the previous president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, but was later himself expelled from the country by the Houthis and Saleh’s supporters, is out of question FM Mekhlafi says.

“There’s nothing to talk about. I think the coupists should not discuss [the] legitimacy of the elected president. They have never observed the law,” the foreign minister said.

Hadi was forced to leave the country because the rebels military advances posed risk to his life, Mekhlafi explained. After that Hadi requested the “friendly countries’ support” to help him to restore the law in a state that suffered from a military coup, and had every right to do so, Mekhlafi said.

“You can’t take power by force. The only means of power transition – a peaceful one via coordinated mechanisms,” the foreign minister added. “Some illusions brought us to this war. Houthis’ illusions that they can take power by force and remove others. Ali Abdullah Saleh and his family’s illusions, which resulted in a popular peaceful revolution… he thought he could get back to power with his family.”

It is impossible to launch a fruitful national peace dialogue while the country is controlled by militant groups, Mekhlafi said, urging the rebels to surrender weapons and withdraw from cities under their control.

“The dialogue should be held between political parties, not political and armed ones,” Mekhlafi said. “Our primary goal is to put an end to this lawlessness.”

A new round of peace talks between the Yemeni government and Shia Houthi rebels, who seized large territories in Yemen including across its capital Sana’a, was held in Switzerland in mid-December. The parties declared a week-long ceasefire which was later prolonged for a week and agreed to meet once again on January, 14.

“Speaking about confidence-building measures, we are complying with the ceasefire. There are obviously violations [of the ceasefire]. We say that it is not us who violate the truce. They say that it is not them,” Mekhlafi said.

Amid the ongoing escalation of the civil conflict terrorists from Al-Qaeda and other jihadi groups like Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS/ISIL) profited from the situation and extended their influence on some parts of the country – especially in the Hadhramaut governorate.

The foreign minister also spoke about the rise of jihadism in Yemen, but called the ISIS and Al-Qaeda scares a convenient excuse for the Houthis to justify seizure of Yemeni cities and provinces.

“Rise of Al-Qaeda is a direct consequence of the Houthi policy of seizing territories, overthrowing legitimate government and state institutions,” Mekhlafi said, stating that Al-Qaeda existed and was used as a scarecrow under Saleh’s rule as well. “Battle with Al-Qaeda is a task for the government and society as a whole, not just one side like Houthis who use this cause to keep weapons.”

Mekhlafi also said that the Houthi rebels consider everybody who does not agree with their views as IS supporters using the problem of terrorism for their own political purposes.

“We are trying to end the political struggle through reaching national consent with possibly broadest international partnership to establish a rule-of-law state which, in its term, will continue to fight terrorism and extremism which is its direct goal and responsibility,” the foreign minister said.

Mekhlafi positively assessed the objective role of Russia in the Yemeni conflict denying the myth that Russia supports the Houthis.

“The Russian position is always objective – it has always supported the legitimate government in Yemen. Russia can play a positive role exerting pressure on the rebels to push them back to law and to make them stick to the Resolution 2216 of the UN Security Council,” he said, referring to the resolution which prohibited arms shipments to the Houthis and called the latter to withdraw troops from Sana’a.

The minister also said that Iran can also play a positive role in the Yemeni conflict if it leaves Yemen alone and stops intervening in the country supporting one of the parties to the conflict.

“If Iran continues to support the rebels its role in this conflict remains negative,” Mekhlafi said.

The Zaidiyyah Shia group Ansar Allah, known as the Houthis, seized Sana’a as well as other large territories in north-western Yemen in September, 2014, after the Yemeni authorities failed to build a stable government and to restore stability in the country. The Houthis present their actions as a counter revolution and regard the military operation of the Saudi-led coalition as illegal intervention in the internal affairs of Yemen.