A Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) delegation attempting to mediate the political crisis in Yemen has decided to suspend its initiative. The decision came after Yemen's president demanded that the opposition sign the agreement at the presidential palace.
The GCC action was announced in a press statement following a meeting of the GCC Ministerial Council Sunday (May 22nd) in Riyadh where the delegation arrived after leaving Sanaa.
The statement said the GCC suspend the initiative "for the lack of appropriate conditions for its approval".
The statement added, "The council looks forward to President Ali Abdullah Saleh signing the agreement as soon as possible to ensure the implementation of the agreement and a peaceful transition of power."
Saleh said on Yemeni state television, "The opposition will be a partner in the transitional government for 90 days, so are we going to deal over the telephone? Why don’t they come here?"
He added, "If the joint partner came to sign the initiative at the palace, then we are choosing peace, or else we will face them with all possible means and will hold them responsible for the civil war and bloodshed which will be shed because of it."
Saleh said the representatives of the Joint Meeting Parties "signed the initiative in closed rooms".
The opposition signed the initiative Saturday (May 21st) at the home of Mohammed Salem Basendwah, the leader of the opposition with GCC Secretary-General Abdul Latif al-Zayani in attendance. Al-Zayani later met representatives of the ruling Congress Party who signed the initiative Sunday at the presidential palace.
Abdo Al Jundi, Deputy Information Minister, told Al-Shorfa, "The failure of the opposition to attend the signing is an indication of their lack of good, so what will their partnership with the government be like in the future?"
He said "such a historic agreement, which will see the first Arab leader to step down while still enjoying massive popularity with the support of the army, is essentially a handover of power to the opposition. So why is the opposition showing intransigence?"
Hassan Zaid, a Joint Meeting Parties leader, told Al-Shorfa, "The opposition signed according to what was agreed upon with the mediators so it could fulfil its obligations under the initiative." He emphasised the importance of the president's signature, which he described as an "offer of resignation".
Abdul Hafeez al-Nahari, deputy head of the ruling Congress Party's information service, said, "The president is ready to sign, and he expects another visit by al-Zayani to Sanaa to sign in case the opposition was convinced to attend the signing ceremony."
He added, "Why is the opposition evading a public signing? Is it an underestimation of the mediator, or the agreement, or the counterparty, with which, a week after the president's signature, they will enter into a governing partnership?"
Al-Nahari said the president "gave up his constitutional right to remain president until 2013 as an elected president. The ruling Congress Party gave up its majority in parliament as a ruling party, and agreed to share the government with the partner, but they insist on formalities that neither advance nor delay anything in the agreement."
On Sunday thousands of the president's supporters gathered in Sanaa to oppose his signing of the initiative. They surrounded the permanent residence of the Congress Party's Standing Committee to prevent the president from signing. They also surrounded the United Arab Emirates Embassy where al-Zayani and Western and Arab ambassadors were preparing to deliver a copy the initiative to the president for his signature.
Sultan al-Atawani, a member of the Joint Meeting Parties, said, "The Gulf states should do what suits them, whether to withdraw the initiative or to persuade the president to sign, and the opposition will seek to escalate."