Yemen's Saleh Calls for 'New Page' in Relations with Saudi-led Coalition

Ali-Abdullah-Saleh

Ali-Abdullah-Saleh

"I call upon the brothers in neighboring states and the alliance to stop their aggression, lift the siege, open the airports and allow food aid and the saving of the wounded and we will turn a new page by virtue of our neighborliness", Saleh said in a televised speech.

Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Saturday he was open to talks with the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels to end the three-year conflict.

The apparent shift in position came as forces loyal to Mr Saleh battled Houthi fighters for a fourth day in the capital Sanaa - with both sides claiming control of areas of the city.

In a statement carried by the Saudi-owned Al-Hadath channel, the coalition said it was "confident of the will of the leaders and sons" of Saleh's GPC party to return to Arab fold.

The rift between Saleh and the Huthis goes back months, with the former president slamming the Huthis as "militias" and the rebels threatening Saleh loyalists after armed violence left two dead in Sanaa in August.

Within hours, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam pushed back.

The coalition imposed a total blockade on Yemen after a rebel missile was shot down near Riyadh.

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"That blockade has been partially wound down but not fully wound down".

Saleh went on to denounce the Houthi militia, which he accuses of being responsible for the humanitarian disaster inside the country, and he insisted that the Yemeni people are standing up for themselves to get rid of them. He also points up that Saleh's move represents a turning point in the situation inside the country, in which the tables have been turned against the Houthis, and the situation has returned to the status-quo prior to September 2014, when the Houthis seized chunks of the capital from former president Hadi.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a massive air campaign to reverse Houthi military gains and shore up the Yemeni government.

The Houthis, a Shiite tribal militia from northwest Yemen, have been at war with the central government for the better part of a decade.

Iran has previously denied supplying arms to Houthi rebels, calling such allegations "baseless and unfounded".

Yemen's civil war has killed more than 10,000 people since 2015, displaced more than two million people, caused a cholera outbreak infecting almost one million people and put the country on the brink of starvation.

The UN Human Rights Office has documented more than 13,800 civilian casualties, including more than 5,000 people killed since fighting began. The suspected number of cases has reached 500,000, according to the World Health Organization.

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