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Arab League Calls on Yemen's Houthis to Release President

  • Heather Murdock

An armed Houthi Shi'ite Yemeni stands guard outside the Republican Palace in Sana'a, Feb. 16, 2015.

An armed Houthi Shi'ite Yemeni stands guard outside the Republican Palace in Sana'a, Feb. 16, 2015.

The Arab League Wednesday urged a peaceful solution to the growing crisis in Yemen, calling on Houthi rebels to release political figures and return weapons seized from Yemeni security forces.

On Twitter this week, resigned Yemeni Information Minister Nadia Sakkaf called on Houthi rebels to let resigned President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi out of the country for emergency health care. She asked her followers: “Has dignity died in Yemen?”

President Hadi resigned last month after one of several power-sharing agreements between the government and the Houthis fell apart.

On Wednesday the Arab League repeated the call for Hadi’s release from house arrest and the return of government weapons.

The United Arab Emirates' ambassador to the Arab League, Mohammed Bin Nakhira Al-Zahari, said the Houthis must relinquish the territory they currently hold.

The Houthis, a Shiite rebel group, overran the Yemeni capital Sana'a in September, along with several other northern regions, and they are now continuing to gain ground in the east and south.

The Arab League’s demands echoed calls from the United Nations on Monday. Here’s British Ambassador to the U.N. Mark Lyall Grant:

“Today we have made clear that those who use violence and intimidation to try to dictate Yemen's future are undermining the security of all Yemeni citizens, and are eroding the political progress made since 2011. The Houthis must take responsibility for their actions and stop using violence and coercion as political tools," said Grant.

The Arab League also called on the group to give back regions they now control.

After more than a decade of fighting the government, analyss say the Houthis are not likely to heed these calls, but they add that the group cannot alone govern Yemen’s deeply divided regions.

Hala Shiha is the head of Arab affairs department at Egypt's el-Nahar newspaper:

"The Arab League is working toward a political solution in Yemen and has enough influence in the region to make a difference, but Arab leaders have fallen short of offering a specific plan, instead promising not to 'dictate a resolution'." she said.

This is Weddy Ould Sidi Heibi the Mauritanian Ambassador and permanent representative to the Arab League:

"The Arab League will not interfere in Yemen's internal affairs, and so Yemenis should return to negotiations," said Heibi.

However, some other members of the Arab League have demonstrated their interest in more concrete action.

Last weekend, the Egyptian government announced joint military training exercises with Saudi Arabia. The kingdom sees Yemen's Houthis as a threat to its southern border and regional influence, in large part due to the insurgents' ties with Iran. Egypt is concerned that instability in Yemen is a threat to the Mandab Strait, the path for ships crossing the Red Sea to the Suez Canal.

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