News / Middle East

Talks on New Yemeni Government Collapse

Followers of the Shi'ite Houthi movement march during an anti-government demonstration in Sana'a, Yemen, Aug. 24, 2014.
Followers of the Shi'ite Houthi movement march during an anti-government demonstration in Sana'a, Yemen, Aug. 24, 2014.
Reuters

Talks on forming a new Yemeni government collapsed on Sunday over demands by Shi'ite Muslim Houthis to restore fuel subsidies cut by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, officials said, and further demonstrations in the capital Sana'a were expected.

The Houthis, who have been fighting for years for more power for their Zaydi Shi'ite Muslim sect in north Yemen, have massed tens of thousands of supporters on the outskirts of Sana'a to press the government to quit and to restore fuel subsidies.

The government offered on Saturday to resign within a month to pave the way for a technocrat administration that would review the fuel subsidy issue, but officials said the Houthis had demanded an immediate reinstatement of the subsidies.

The standoff has raised fears for the stability of Yemen, a majority Sunni Muslim country of 25 million that is allied with the United States and borders major oil exporter Saudi Arabia.

The government blamed the Houthis for the failure of talks.

"The Houthis have reneged on all previous understandings, including joining a new government and an offer to reduce the price of oil products, at the first government meeting," Abdel Malek al-Mekhlafi, a spokesman for the government committee assigned to negotiate with the Houthis, told Reuters.

"They have threatened to escalate [their protests] if the decision to raise fuel prices is not canceled," he added.

Daifallah al-Shami, a leader of the Houthi group, made clear the demand for reinstating fuel subsidies was non-negotiable for his side and said the peaceful protests would continue.

"[Reversing the increase in fuel prices] is a popular demand and cannot be abandoned," Shami told Reuters. "No other issues can be discussed."

More rallies planned

Rival demonstrations are scheduled to take place in Sana'a later on Sunday, one by Houthi loyalists and one by supporters of President Hadi, but residents said they did not expect the two to come into contact with each other.

Hadi has put the army on a state of heightened alert to tackle any resort to violence during the Sana'a demonstrations.

The Houthis have been emboldened by recent military gains against rival Sunni Muslim tribesmen and allied government troops north of the capital.

In a report on their website on Sunday, the Houthis said that one of their members had been killed and three wounded in an attack by Sunni Islamist gunmen on one of their offices in eastern Sana'a on Saturday.

The al-Qaida-affiliated Ansar al-Sharia said in messages posted on social media that two of its members had been killed in the incident.

Yemen's Gulf neighbors and Western partners, which helped the country stave off civil war in 2011, have watched the dispute between Sana'a and the Houthis with mounting concern.

Last week, they urged the Houthis to stop trying to gain territory by force and to engage in a political transition process.

The government's decision last month to raise fuel prices was part of efforts to rein in its budget deficit and helped the impoverished Arab state to conclude talks on a $560 million loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Last year, it spent about $3 billion on the fuel subsidies, nearly a third of all state revenues.

The Houthis, whose protests began last Monday, have pitched tents on a road leading to the airport near to key ministries. Their protests have tapped into wider public anger among Yemenis over the subsidy cuts.

A previous attempt to cut subsidies, in 2005, led to unrest in which about 20 people were killed and more than 200 wounded. The reform was canceled.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs