Yemen government signs peace deal with Houthi rebels

Under the accord, the rebels must hand over institutions they have seized, dismantle protest camps they set up in and around Sanaa and 'immediately end all acts of violence'.

Abd Al Karim Al Iryani (centre, bending) advisor to Yemeni president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi (centre, in blue tie) signs the ceasefire agreement to end days of street violence, in the presence of UN special envoy Jamal Benomar (right) in Sanaa September 21, 2014. Yemen's Shiite rebels are calling for a more inclusive government. Mohamed Al Sayaghi/Reuters
Powered by automated translation

SANAA // Yemen’s government and Shiite rebels signed a UN-brokered peace deal after Shiite rebels seized the government headquarters and the prime minister resigned.

Days of violence in the capital has killed more than 140 people and sent thousands fleeing their homes.

“A national peace and partnership agreement based on the outcomes of the national dialogue conference was signed this evening at the presidential palace” in Sanaa, state news agency Saba reported on Sunday.

President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, United Nations envoy Jamal Benomar and representatives of Yemen’s political forces, including the Shiite rebels, attended the signing ceremony.

“We have reached a final deal with which we can overcome this crisis,” Mr Hadi said.

Mr Benomar said the agreement called for the formation of a new government within one month.

Under the deal, Mr Hadi will also appoint advisers from the Shiite Ansarullah rebels and southern separatists within three days, the UN envoy said.

Mr Hadi will also name a new premier who is “neutral and not belonging to any party” to replace Mohamed Basindawa within three days.

Two representatives of rebel leader Abdulmalik Al Houthi signed on behalf of the insurgents.

The rebels earlier Sunday swooped on key institutions across Sanaa, including the government headquarters and military sites, after an apparent surrender by security forces.

Under the accord, the rebels must hand over institutions they have seized, dismantle protest camps they set up in and around Sanaa and “immediately end all acts of violence”.

After the deal was signed, Saba reported that the rebels began withdrawing from government buildings in a handover overseen by defence minister General Mohammed Nasser Ahmed.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the agreement marked a “positive step towards political stability and peace in the country”.

In his resignation letter, Mr Basindawa accused Mr Hadi of being “autocratic”.

“The partnership between myself and the president in leading the country only lasted for a short period, before it was replaced by autocracy to the extent that the government and I no longer knew anything about the military and security situation,” he wrote.

His resignation had come as rebels overran state radio, the general command of the armed forces, and the defence ministry’s media arm, officials said.

They also swept into the parliament building and took over the central bank and civil aviation authority.

The interior ministry’s website urged security forces not to confront the insurgents.

Interior minister Abdo Al Tarib instead urged “cooperation” with the rebels “to strengthen security and stability, preserve public property and guard government installations... and to consider Ansarullah friends of the police”.

The rebels had advanced into Sanaa from their mountain stronghold in the far north last month and set up armed protest camps to press their demands for political change.

Their offensive had been denounced by Mr Hadi on Friday as a “coup attempt”.

Sunday's developments came a day after the UN announced a power-sharing deal to end a week of fighting between the rebels and pro-government forces which had killed dozens on both sides and forced the suspension of all flights into and out of Sanaa airport.

Saba reported late on Sunday that Mr Hadi was meeting Yemeni political forces, including representatives of Ansarullah.

After consulting his newly appointed advisers, Mr Hadi is expected to name the ministers of defence, interior, foreign affairs and finance.

Mr Hadi had already agreed to bring the rebels into a new government to replace the unpopular administration that imposed austerity measures, including a fuel price hike, earlier this year.

The rebels have demanded posts in key state institutions as part of their push for greater political clout.

* Agence France-Presse, with additional reporting from Associated Press