Yemeni authorities have rejected a temporary ceasefire with al-Qaeda, negotiated by a number of tribal leaders and religious clerics, in a bid to achieve reconciliation and end armed confrontations.
Afterlengthy discussions, al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula [AQAP] chief, Nasser al-Wahishi, had agreed to the terms of the ceasefire. However, reports say the Yemeni government rejected the proposal on the basis of advice given to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi by the United States. US sources have also revealed that US presidential counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan will be in Sanaa next Thursday.
Arabstoday has received a copy of the statement issued by the mediation committee which attempted to negotiate the ceasefire. The document, dated February 5, has been signed by eight people - half of whom are described as "clerics" and the other half as "tribal leaders." It confirms the Yemeni authority's refusal to sign the ceasefire agreement despite its previous approval of the content.
The statement, which slams US drone strikes, demands that tribal elders, clerics, politicians and human rights activists pressure the Yemeni authorities to sign the two-month ceasefire agreement, during which al-Qaeda will halt its attacks while Yemeni security forces will stop pursuing the militants and suspend the drone programme.
The mediators say the ceasefire was proposed to enable negotiations for reconciliation and that AQAP chief al-Wahishi signed the agreement and his organisation expressed willingness to undergo reconciliation. According to their statement, they then put AQAP's approval to the authorities and Yemeni intelligence set a three-day period during which the agreement was to be put to Hadi, who would then appoint a representative to sign it. After the deadline, they were "surprised" that the agreement was not signed.
The mediators hold the Yemeni authorities responsible for the consequences of turning down the ceasefire and for the continuation of drone attacks.
Security sources have told Arabstoday that President Hadi turned down the agreement after speaking to US officials, who told him that al-Qaeda represents a serious threat and negotiations will be "fruitless."
Meanwhile, American radio station Radio Sawa has reported that US President Barack Obama's chief counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan will visit Sanaa on Thursday "as part of deliberations between President Obama's administration and Yemeni authorities over the issue of drone raids which have targeted al-Qaeda in Yemen."
The news report said that Hadi's vocal support of the drone strikes, which sometimes result in civilian deaths, may undermine his popularity in Yemen and generate sympathy for the extremist elements. Brennan is expected to try and persuade Hadi to allow the unpopular raids to continue.
Brennan and Hadi have a close relationship that is expected to become even closer after Brennan is confirmed as director of the US' Central Intelligence Agency [CIA]. Brennan is known as the planning mind behind the drone scheme, has 25 years of experience in the intelligence community and is currently advising Obama on counter-terrorism He was also behind the operation which saw Osama Bin Laden killed in Pakistan, in 2011.
Ten days ago, tribal mediators succeeded in halting a deadly confrontation between the Yemeni army and hundreds of al-Qaeda elements in the al-Bayda province, south of Sanaa. Yemeni authorities accused local tribal elements of holding three kidnapped westerners and harbouring militants.
The Yemeni army, backed by the US and assisted by tribal militias, was successful in expelling al-Qaeda militants from the southern regions last year. It came after militants exploited the breakdown of law and order which accompanied protests against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011, to take over the region and declare it an Islamic principality.