By LAURA KASINOF
September 9, 2011
SANA, Yemen — Having failed so far to bring an end to the nation’s political crisis, a delegation of governing party officials traveled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Friday, hoping to persuade the absentee president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to help break a stalemate that has paralyzed the country for months.
Mr. Saleh’s governing party wants the president to jumpstart the transition of power and take steps toward carrying out a proposal advanced in the spring by the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional interest group dominated by Saudi Arabia. “The delegation will meet with President Saleh in order to discuss a proposed implementation for the G.C.C. initiative,” said the Yemeni government spokesman, Mohammed Albasha.
Although it faces great odds, the delegation represents one step in an attempt to get Mr. Saleh to agree to what he has repeatedly said he would accept — leaving power — only to repeatedly back off his word. He is recuperating in Saudi Arabia from severe injuries received in a bombing during the political crisis.
The delegation’s visit comes after leaders in Yemen’s governing party split between those who want to see full transfer of presidential powers to Mr. Saleh’s deputy and a cadre of hard-liners who are stalling the process. They met this past week in an effort to find practical steps to carry out the initiative.
The primary result of the meetings, according to a high-ranking official who was present, was the call to ask Mr. Saleh to “authorize the vice president to negotiate with all parties who signed the G.C.C. initiative.” The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the negotiations were continuing.
That agreement is the impetus for the delegation’s visit to Riyadh, though it is unclear if a statement by Mr. Saleh would have a substantial impact on a crisis that has dragged on for months. Yemen remains deeply divided as protesters continue to hold daily mass gatherings calling for Mr. Saleh to resign, and Mr. Saleh’s family and allies cling to power, refusing to step aside.
There is fear of civil war if a solution to the political crisis is not found soon.
Yemen’s vice president, Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has been meeting over the past few months with the opposition and with representatives from foreign governments involved with the proposal. It seems that the governing party has calculated that those talks — which have gone nowhere — may gain some credibility and urgency if Mr. Saleh issues a public statement.
Daily antigovernment street protests, a faltering economy and the increasing loss of central government control in outlying provinces has pushed Yemen to the brink. Mr. Saleh has so far refused to leave office, even after he was severely injured in a bomb attack on the presidential palace on June 3 and forced to travel to the Saudi capital for medical treatment.
Mr. Saleh, known for his political cunning, has backed out of signing the regional council’s initiative in the past, which is partly why Yemen’s opposition leaders want Mr. Saleh to immediately transfer all power to his deputy. They do not trust a pronouncement.
A statement, at this point, would also probably not be enough to satisfy the protesters, who have split from the formal opposition parties over any negotiated settlement.