An olive branch for Yemen's south

President Salih of Yemen held out an olive branch to the southern separatists yesterday, offering to discuss their grievances.

"Come talk with your brothers in the authority, and we will talk with you," he said. "We extend the hand of dialogue without (you) having to resort to violence or blocking roads or raising the flag of separation ... I am certain the flags of separation will burn in the days and weeks ahead. We have one flag we voted on with our free will. We welcome any political demands. Come to dialogue."

Having suspended his war with the Houthi rebels in the north, Salih is under international pressure to bring quiet to the south – in theory so that he can concentrate on repairing the economy and fighting al-Qaeda militants.

Following a recent show of force in the south (herehere andhere), Salih may feel he's now in a strong enough position to negotiate – though it's doubtful whether much will come of it. As Reuters points out, "the fractured nature of the [southern] movement, without a unified leadership, makes serious talks difficult", adding:

"The offer for talks with separatists was not Saleh's first. Diplomats say previous such offers have not been followed by concrete action to address southern complaints that Sanaa neglects the southern region and treats southerners unfairly, including in property disputes, jobs and pension rights."

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 10 March 2010.