ABU DHABI - 20APRIL2011 - Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, UAE foreign minister, Catherine Ashton, representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, during an press conference after the 21st GCC-EU joint council and ministerial meeting yesterday at Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
Sheikh Abdullah, the Foreign Minister, is joined by Catherine Ashton, the EU representative for foreign affairs and security policy, at a press conference after the GCC-EU meeting in Abu Dhabi yesterd

GCC talks stall on peace deal for Yemen



ABU DHABI // The Gulf Cooperation Council's proposal for a peaceful transition of power in Yemen appeared to be at an impasse last night after two days of talks in Abu Dhabi.
The Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh continued to insist that he would abide by the country's constitution, under which he remains in office until 2013. In response, the opposition called for more mass protests.
In a statement issued after the annual GCC-European Union meeting in the capital yesterday, ministers said they "reiterated their commitment to support Yemen's development as a unified, stable, democratic and prosperous state".
"Dialogue is the only way to make progress on political, economic and social reforms acceptable to all Yemenis," the statement read. Ministers "welcomed and supported the ongoing GCC initiative and efforts to encourage concerned sides in Yemen to urgently reach a political settlement of the current impasse".
Yesterday's GCC-EU meeting followed several hours of talks the night before between the GCC and representatives of Mr Saleh's government.
The GCC proposal calls for Mr Saleh to cede power to his deputy. The Yemeni opposition have rejected it because there is timetable for a handover.
A senior Yemeni government official blamed the impasse on the opposition demand for Mr Saleh's immediate departure. The president wanted two months to oversee the handover of power, the official said, while the opposition would permit only a single week.
Ahmad Obaid Bin Dagher, assistant secretary-general of the ruling General People's Congress and spokesman for the Yemeni delegation at yesterday's meeting, said any solution should not violate the constitution.
"We are not holding on to the power," he said. "Our only request is that any solutions, whether regional or international, should respect the Yemeni constitution and the Yemeni people who voted in 2006 in free elections.
"The ruling party's main concern is that if they step down now, it is an unconstitutional move."
Nevertheless, speaking yesterday after the GCC-EU meeting, the Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah, hinted that a resolution would be reached soon.
"We have to be clear this is the second meeting with nationals from Yemen regarding events in Yemen," he said last night.
"We listened to the protesters and then the ruling party – now the GCC is in internal consultation to look in the next step and in the next few hours you will hear about the next step from GCC countries."
Confrontations have raged between security forces and anti-Saleh protesters this week, with at least eight people shot dead since Tuesday, including a passer-by and a policeman.
One protester was killed when a gunman on a motorbike opened fire early yesterday at demonstrators staging a sit-in at Al Nasr Square in the western Red Sea city of Hudaydah.
The attacker managed to escape after also wounding about eight other protesters, most of whom had been asleep.
Also yesterday, a policeman was shot dead during clashes between police and protesters in the main southern port city of Aden, and five demonstrators were shot dead in the capital Sana'a on Tuesday.
At yesterday's meeting, the European Union and the GCC also reiterated their support for the Libyan rebel Transitional National Council.
Talks between GCC ministers and Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, stressed that Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi's "regime has lost its legitimacy and expressed support to the Transitional National Council as a legitimate interlocutor representing the aspirations of the Libyan people", according to a statement.
International forces have been carrying out air strikes on forces loyal to Gadhafi since March 19, in a mission headed by Nato since March 31. The UAE and Qatar are the only Arab states to send war planes for operations over Libya.
When asked when the UAE will recognise the Rebel Council, Sheikh Abdullah said the UAE was in talks with Dr Abduljaleel Jebreel, head of the Rebel Council, and that they were studying ways to cooperate with the group.
hdajani@thenational.ae
* With additional reporting by the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse

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