Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi said late on Tuesday that he is ready for dialogue with militants of Al-Qaeda, but only if they give up their weapons and show repentance.
“I’ve always said that despite the blood that has been shed, the homes that have been destroyed and the people that have been displaced, we would consider dialogue on condition that they give up their weapons, announce their repentance… and stop protecting armed groups,” Hadi said in a televised address.
The president, who took office in February after months of protests and street battles forced veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh from power, vowed in his acceptance speech to eradicate Al-Qaeda loyalists who seized large swathes of southern Yemen during last year’s power vacuum.
But Hadi said Tuesday: “Mediators… pressured me to accept dialogue.”
He did not elaborate on the identity of the mediators but added: “The mediators often go and never come back again.”
Hadi announced an all-out offensive against the jihadists in May that led to the recapture of a string of towns in the southern province of Abyan the following month.
But the militants continue to battle troops in Yemen’s eastern provinces and are believed to be responsible for a series of attacks in recent weeks on senior security officials both in the provinces and in the capital Sanaa.
Hadi also called on exiled Yemeni opposition figures, including leaders from the southern separatist movement, to return home to participate in the transition process.
“I invite all those who were forced to leave their country to return and participate in rebuilding it,” said Hadi.
His comments were intended mainly for leaders from the former South Yemen who have been living in exile since 1994 after they failed to break away from the North.
Ali Salem al-Baid, a main separatist leader, told AFP earlier this month that he planned on returning to Yemen.
The movement is expected to hold a meeting on September 30 in the southern port city of Aden where their views on Yemen’s future and their role in shaping it are expected to be announced.
Hadi’s speech marked the 50th anniversary of the uprising in Sanaa that overthrew the imamate — the Zaidi Shiite theocracy that ruled the north before the establishment of the republic.