SANAA (Reuters) - Representatives of Yemen’s ex-leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, are in talks with diplomats from the United States, Britain and the United Arab Emirates to help end four months of war in the impoverished country, a member of his party said.
“There are negotiations in Cairo between the leaders of the Congress party and diplomats from the United States, Britain and the UAE in order to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Yemen and to lift the siege on the grounds that the continuation of the war and the siege serve extremist groups,” Adel Shuja, a leader of the party Saleh leads, told Reuters.
“These negotiations have made significant progress so far.”
Saleh’s loyalists in Yemen’s army are a key force in the country’s civil war, and the talks are the first between the strongman and the key member of the Arab coalition opposing him.
The Emirates had been bombing his forces for weeks and the negotiations coincide with major Emirati and Saudi-backed military gains in the country’s south.
It was not immediately clear whether forces linked to Saleh had pulled back from battlefields around the strategic port of Aden, which local fighters armed by Gulf states and accompanied by Emirati military trainers seized in a surprise offensive this week from Yemen’s dominant Houthi group after months of stalemate.
A wily political operator who played Yemen’s rival armed and tribal groups off each other for 33 years, Saleh enjoyed Gulf support until “Arab Spring” unrest forced him to resign in 2012.
An ousted but still influential figure in Yemen’s security forces, the ex-leader forged an unlikely alliance with old foes in the Iran-allied Houthi militia, which seized the capital Sanaa in September and pressed south toward Aden alongside Saleh forces, triggering the Arab intervention on March 26.
Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari and Noah Browning, Editing by William Maclean, editing by Larry King