Last updated: 8 January, 2013

Yemen moves to reassure southerners ahead of talks

Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi has ordered the formation of two panels to resolve the grievances of southerners, in a new move to get them to join a stalled national dialogue, state media said on Tuesday.

One commission will be tasked with resolving disputes over land that southerners claim the previous regime seized from them, the official news agency SANA said.

The other will handle cases of civil servants and security officials fired from their jobs.

The panels will also investigate “violations” against southerners that have occurred since the south, which broke away in 1994 causing a short civil war, was overrun by northern troops.

The president’s decision “aims at going ahead with the national dialogue and achieving national reconciliation,” the agency said.

The national dialogue was due to start in November, but has been delayed for various reasons, crucially that factions of the Southern Movement refused to take part.

The Southern Movement, which emerged in 2007, has gradually grown more radical in its demands, which include autonomy or outright secession for the formerly independent south.

Three of the movement’s four main groups have now agreed to participate in the dialogue, and efforts are on to persuade the hardline separatist faction of former vice president Ali Salem al-Baid to join.

In December, the dialogue’s preparatory committee recommended to Hadi a series of measures to restore the southerners’ confidence in the Sanaa government.

Some 60,000 civil servants, military and police officials were “unfairly” sacked during former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule, according to a member of the dialogue committee.

They demand reinstatement or compensation.

Meanwhile, national security chief Ali Hassan al-Ahmadi accused Iran of “supporting separatists and trying to fuel the conflict to undermine the Gulf Initiative,” which stipulates that the national dialogue should take place during Hadi’s two-year rule.

On Sunday, Iranian Ambassador Mahmud Hassan Zada dismissed such accusations as “misleading Western reports Hadi had received.”

No date has yet been set for the national dialogue, but political sources said it could begin later this month or in early February.