Last updated: 8 September, 2013

Yemen south separatists to return to national dialogue

Yemen southern separatists agreed Sunday to return to national reconciliation talks after receiving assurances the future of their region will be discussed, the United Nations and an opposition chief said.

Representatives of the Southern Movement, an umbrella group of various factions from the former independent South Yemen, will return to the talks on Monday, UN envoy Jamal Benomar told reporters in Sanaa.

He spoke following a meeting with representatives of the movement, who walked out last month demanding a Sanaa apology for past wars and that talks between Sanaa and southerners be held abroad.

Southern chief Yassin Mekkawi, who is also the deputy head of the national dialogue, said his side has agreed to resume talks in Sanaa, after promises that their demands, set out in a letter to President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, would be examined.

The Southern Movement had demanded the creation of a special committee in the dialogue, formed equally of northern and southern representatives, to discuss the future of the link between the south and Sanaa.

Sources close to the talks said this demand has been met and a committee of 16 members will look into the future form of the state, including a federation or a confederation encompassing the regions of the Arabian Peninsula nation.

Yemen’s government last month apologised to the southerners and northern rebels for wars waged against them by the state under former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down in February 2012 after a year of nationwide protests.

The apology came as Sanaa sought to jump-start the national dialogue that is aimed at drafting a new constitution and holding elections in February 2014.

The dialogue is part of a Gulf-brokered initiative that ended the protests and paved the way for a transitional period led by Hadi, who was Saleh’s deputy at the time.

After north and south Yemen united in 1990, southern leaders led a short-lived breakaway in 1994 that sparked a civil war that culminated in occupation by northern troops.