Shiite rebels and Yemeni officials met Friday seeking to fine-tune a deal to end a standoff sparked by calls for the government to quit but failed to make headway, a UN diplomat said.
Even so, the two sides agreed to meet again in the presence of UN envoy Jamal Benomar, who has been in Sanaa since Thursday, in a renewed effort to clinch an agreement, the diplomat said.
Zaidi rebels have been camped out in the capital for weeks, demanding the resignation of the government, which they accuse of corruption, and a reduction of fuel prices.
On Thursday sources from both sides said a potential deal had been reached to end the stalemate.
That deal, reached late Wednesday, stipulated that “a new prime minister will be named within 48 hours” and fuel prices be cut further, a presidency source told AFP.
Another source in President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi’s office said it was an “understanding over an agreement that will be finalised by Benomar.”
Talks to fine-tune the deal were held late Thursday and into the night between government representatives led by presidential adviser Abdelkarim al-Ariani and Mehdi Machchat for the rebels.
A source close to the talks said “progress has been achieved” and that discussions focused on a new premier and cutting fuel prices.
– Differences remain –
The rebels, known as Huthis or Ansarullah, had been demanding that Hadi consult them before naming a new prime minister.
Authorities want the rebels to dismantle protest camps in Sanaa as part of a deal to resolve the crisis.
“The regime wants the camps dismantled as soon as a new prime minister is named, but we will do this after a new government is formed,” a rebel official told AFP.
The rebels have battled the government for years from their Saada heartland in the remote north, complaining of marginalisation under former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Saleh was forced from power and replaced by Hadi in February 2012, after a deadly 11-month uprising.
Hadi’s government is trying to push a plan for a six-region federation, but the rebels and southern separatists have rejected the move.
On Friday the source close to the talks said the rebels “are demanding a revision of the outline of the future federal state to ensure that their province has an outlet to the Red Sea.”
Ansarullah also wants the government to apologise for the deaths of eight of its supporters killed in a police crackdown Tuesday, the source added.
A rebel official confirmed that differences remain.
“There are differences but the negotiations to solve the crisis are being held in a positive climate,” the source said.
The UN diplomat later confirmed that the rebels and officials failed to bridge their differences Friday.
“It was not possible for the negotiators to overcome their differences,” the diplomat told AFP.
“But they agreed to hold a new round of negotiations in the next two days under the supervision of UN envoy Jamal Benomar,” said the diplomat.
On the streets of Sanaa, Ansarullah supporters demonstrated on Airport Road Friday while government loyalists held a rival protest, witnesses said, noting that, unlike in past weeks, the rallies were peaceful.