Hammoud Mounassar, AFP
Last updated: 22 November, 2011

UN Yemen envoy says parties agree to transition plan

The UN’s Yemen envoy said on Tuesday a Gulf sponsored power-transfer deal aimed at ending months of political deadlock has been approved both by the opposition and by President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

“All the parties have agreed to implement the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative,” Jamal Benomar told reporters in the capital Sanaa.

“We are now discussing the practical arrangements related to the actual signing ceremony,” Benomar said, without saying when or where the signing ceremony would take place.

But a member of his delegation told AFP later on Tuesday that “talks are still ongoing and there will be no signing ceremony this evening.”

The deputy leader of the ruling General People’s Congress, Sultan al-Barakani, told AFP that discussions were still ongoing about the arrangements.

“The president wants a minister from a Gulf country to attend the signing ceremony in addition to (GCC Secretary General) Abdullatif al-Zayani,” Barakani said without specifying which country.

Final touches are being made to the implementation mechanism and the document of guarantees to the president and his entourage mentioned in the Gulf initiative which offers Saleh and his relatives immunity from prosecution if he hands over power to his deputy.

Barakani said that the signing is expected to take place “on Thursday or Friday.”

Benomar, who arrived in Sanaa on November 10, has been working tirelessly to secure an agreement on the Gulf transition plan that calls for Saleh to transfer power over to his deputy, Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, in return for immunity from prosecution.

Saleh’s continued refusal to sign the initiative has triggered months of political deadlock that has left the government in a state of chaos and the economy in shambles.

The political crisis has also exacerbated tensions on the street where tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have faced a brutal 10-month government crackdown that has left hundreds dead and thousands wounded.

On Monday, a senior opposition leader told AFP that Saleh had agreed to sign the power transfer deal and its UN-sponsored mechanism for implementation.

“The negotiations that have been under way for the past three days have led to an agreement by which the Gulf initiative and mechanisms for implementing it will be signed on Tuesday,” Mohammed Bassandawa, who heads the National Council of revolutionary forces, has said.

The plan submitted by the six-nation GCC will effectively bring an end to Saleh’s 33-year rule.

A GCC official told AFP on Monday in Riyadh that Zayani could travel to Sanaa if Yemen’s political rivals were ready to seal the deal.

“The secretary general will go to Sanaa in the next two days if the Yemeni parties are ready to sign the Gulf initiative,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The plan also proposes the formation in Sanaa of a government of national unity and an end to the deadly protests rocking the impoverished Arabian Peninsula nation since late January.

Saleh is required to submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days of the signing, to be followed two months later by a presidential election.

A Yemeni opposition official said on Monday that a second ceremony would be held in the Saudi capital where the GCC is headquartered.

The political turmoil in Yemen has seen powerful tribes and army dissidents join opposition parliamentarians and tens of thousands of protesters in their struggle to oust Saleh.