SANAA, Yemen (AP) — The United Nations envoy to Yemen said Tuesday that the country's political representatives have signed an agreement that draws a new political map for Yemen, giving regions — including its restive south — self-rule.
Envoy Jamal Benomar said the new agreement "paves the way for establishing a unified state, on the basis of federalism and democracy," while also dealing with power and wealth sharing in the country. He said that a new constitution — which is yet to be drafted — will decide on the mandate and powers of the new regions.
Benomar's statement comes amid deep divisions among the country's political groups as leading parties disagreed on a proposal to divide the country into six regions instead of two.
Representatives from southern Yemen are seeking to turn the country into a two-member federal union that would give them greater powers. Southern Yemen was an independent state until unification in 1990, and a movement demanding outright independence continues to have influence there, with southerners complaining of discrimination by the north.
The Socialist Party, which enjoys large support in the south, said that it opposes the agreement for giving a small committee chaired by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi more power in deciding on a final map.
"There seems to be a tendency to impose the six-region choice while totally ignore the proposal presented by the party reshaping (Yemen) into a federal state of two regions, north and south," the party said in a statement. "No one knows anything about the six-region proposal which divides the north to four regions and the south to two regions without a political vision or logical justifications."
It added that the proposed map "haphazardly" divides up the country and brings to mind when the south was divided into western and eastern regions under colonial rule.
Proponents of the six-region country believe that it prevents the total separation of the south in the future. The agreement comes as a strong secessionist movement has widespread support in the country's volatile south.
Another pan-Arab Nasserite party refused to sign because of its opposition to making Yemen a federation.
Abdullah Noaman, representative of that party in the talks, said that giving self-rule to different regions only paves the way for "more divisions — and deeper ones."
"This sets the country to have dual identities within one nation," he said. "We are against federal state."