US envoy sees hope for political solution to Yemen crisis
Updated: 2015-03-24 10:29
WASHINGTON - The top US diplomat in Yemen on Monday said Washington and its allies need to make decisions quickly to preserve the possibility of a political solution to the crisis in Yemen.
Ambassador Matthew Tueller said he was optimistic that rival Yemeni factions could reach a political power-sharing agreement if a broad group of representatives could meet outside the country and without the influence of outside parties such as Iran.
"We recognize that we've got to make some decisions quickly," Tueller said after a meeting of the National US-Arab Chamber of Commerce, citing rapid advances by the Iranian-allied Houthi militia toward the southern port of Aden, where Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi fled.
"Political dialogue won't work if Hadi is overrun and captured, and Aden falls, which could happen very quickly," Tueller said, citing the large number of Houthi forces throughout the country.
Tueller gave no details on possible US actions.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal on Monday said Arab countries would take necessary measures to protect the region against "aggression" by the Houthi group if a peaceful solution could not be found.
Al-Faisal spoke after Riyadh Yaseen, named by Hadi as his interim foreign minister, called for Gulf Arab military intervention in Yemen, and notably the imposition of a no-fly zone, to stop territorial advances by Houthi fighters.
Tueller said he remained "relatively optimistic" that the rival factions would be able to reach a power-sharing agreement, if given the chance.
"All sides recognize that there really isn't any alternative but to reach an agreement on power-sharing," he said.
Even the Iranian-allied Houthi militia did not want to be held responsible for plunging Yemen into the same situation as Syria and Libya, he said. "Once they destroy the state institutions, it's very, very hard to put it back together."
Tueller said Saudi Arabia had offered to host peace talks among the warring Yemeni factions on April 7, but that date was still three weeks away and the situation was eroding quickly.
The United States on Saturday evacuated its remaining personnel from Yemen, including about 100 special operations forces, because of deteriorating security.