Southern Movement pressured to join national dialogue

A delegation of European Union diplomats met with representatives of the Southern Movement in Aden on Saturday to stress the need for involvement in the nation's political transition process.

“We need to stress three key messages: an inclusive national dialogue, discussions with the southern movement to address their grievances in the transitional period, and the uniting of their positions in a realistic manner that moves away from old disputes,” said British Ambassador Jonathan Wilks at a press conference on Saturday evening.

The delegation insisted that while the movement has the right to abstain from participation in a national dialogue, such a stance would constitute a strategic error of judgment, as the entire world has been supportive of UN resolution 2014, which paved the way for the transition of power.

European Union Ambassador Michele Cervone d'Urso added that all political parties should actively participate in the presidential elections, to be held on Feb. 21, 2012. “The southern issue should be dealt with within the national dialogue and we anticipate important political changes in the weeks to come.”

The EU members’ visit is the second high-level delegation to visit Aden this month following UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Yemen Jamal Benomar’s visit to Aden on Sunday, December 11. Following his visit, Benomar said that the Southern Movement’s issue regarding the national dialogue presents a challenge because it is composed of many factions [each representing one of South Yemen's six governorates] and lacks a united front.

Khalid Bamadhaf, a leading member of Aden's Southern Movement, acknowledged the efforts made by the international community. He did however also say that these efforts do not take into account all the secessionist movement's dimensions.

“They are not dealing with the movement as an issue of minorities, as they do in any other countries and thus leave us no choice but to make efforts within the national dialogue. We are not against all dialogue with the new reconciliation government,” he said. 

He added that the Southern Secessionist Movement has a shared objective of separating the south from north Yemen. “We have this transitional phase in which we can test the National Unity Government's commitment to our cause. After five years or so, a referendum can take place and the people of the south will be asked if they wish to continue as part of a united Yemen – or separate,” said Bamadhaf.