Arab Coalition in Yemen moves to impose implementation of Riyadh agreement

Coalition observers to monitor ceasefire in accordance with the agreement between government and STC
Thursday 25/06/2020
Fighters loyal to Yemen’s separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) in the southern Abyan governorate, June 24. (AFP)
Fighters loyal to Yemen’s separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) in the southern Abyan governorate, June 24. (AFP)

ADEN –Yemeni political sources expect the Saudi-led Arab coalition to be able to impose a ceasefire in the Abyan governorate (east of Aden), which has been witnessing violent confrontations for weeks between government forces and troops affiliated with the Southern Transitional Council (STC), at a time when the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government camp in Sana’a continues to breach the agreement, hoping for gains on the ground that would make up or its losses.

According to the same sources, the Arab Coalition’s team of observers were able to reach on Wednesday morning the contact zone in Abyan, with the aim of monitoring the ceasefire in accordance with the agreement between the government and the STC.

Arab Coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki had announced that the two sides agreed to end the manifestations of political and military tension and start implementing the Riyadh Agreement.

Fighters loyal to Yemen’s separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) in the southern Abyan governorate on June 24. (AFP)
Fighters loyal to Yemen’s separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) in the southern Abyan governorate on June 24. (AFP)

STC sources, however, indicated that the government forces resumed their shelling operations, especially in the area of al-Tariya, right after the arrival of the monitoring team. Political sources told The Arab Weekly that this breach of the ceasefire will surely be addressed in light of the Arab coalition’s insistence on closing the file of confrontations once and for all and proceed with the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement.

The spokesman for the Fourth Military Region and the Abyan Front, Mohamed al-Naqib, accused the government forces backed by Muslim Brotherhood members of violating the ceasefire.

“One hour after the arrival of the Arab coalition team to monitor the ceasefire in the Shaqra front, the Brotherhood’s terrorist militia resumed its shelling of sites of our southern armed forces,” al-Naqib wrote on Twitter.

Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Al Jaber called on the media and social media activists to support “the sincere efforts to stop bloodshed and implement the Riyadh Agreement.”

Jaber had announced on Twitter that “the coalition forces began deploying ceasefire monitors in Abyan governorate in coordination with the Yemeni government forces and the Southern Transitional Council.”

On Wednesday, the Saudi-led Arab Coalition announced the deployment of its forces in Abyan to monitor the truce that had been announced earlier between the Yemeni government and the STC.

In a gesture of goodwill and positive engagement with the coalition efforts, the STC announced the suspension of its escalation against the legitimate government in Hadramaut governorate.

On Tuesday, the vice-president of the STC in Hadramaut, Salem Ahmed bin Daggar, issued a statement saying that the truce came in compliance with a statement issued by the STC announcing the suspension of all forms of escalation in the southern governorates, in order to give the signatories of the Riyadh Agreement a chance to meet and start implementing it.

He added that the escalation was aimed at “meeting the legitimate demands of citizens for services and implementing self-administration in Hadramaut.”

Yemeni observers pointed out the existence of many obstacles that could hinder the Arab coalition’s attempts at bringing some normalcy to the conditions in Abyan governorate, the most prominent of which are the dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood agenda and the Qatar current over the government’s decisions and this faction’s public rejection of the Riyadh Agreement.

However, analysts believe there is indeed an opportunity to implement the Riyadh Agreement. This opportunity exists today more than ever, according to Yemeni researcher and head of the Aden Centre for Strategic Research and Statistics Hussein Hanashi.

“When the Riyadh Agreement was signed last November, there were two factions in the government camp, one loyal to Qatar and Turkey, and the other a supporter of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and both factions were of the same mind of not implementing agreement despite signing it,” Hanashi noted.

He also added that both factions believed that the legitimacy camp did not need to have an agreement and that it can conquer Aden militarily and put a stop to the whole situation. Their premise was that agreements would come only after the failure of the military options. They also believed that they would have taken Aden in August 2019 were it not for the airstrikes.

“But after a battle of over a month, the government camp was dealt a stinging defeat, what with the loss of many officers and the imprisonment of many leaders amidst considerable material and moral losses and without achieving any progress,” Hanashi said. “All of this makes the pro-Qatar and Turkey current within the government camp face alone all possibilities, including the continuation of open fighting and insisting on their refusal to implement the Riyadh Agreement, at a time when many other parties, including the Arab coalition, have become fully convinced that there is no solution on the horizon except for implementing the agreement, a view that some leaders in the government have come to terms with.”

Hanashi believes that the chances of implementing the Riyadh Agreement are improving despite the current political and military complications. These chances are the result of the power equation that the STC was able to impose, in the sense that it proved that it was a rising political and military force to be reckoned with, especially since its forces were able to still hold the Abyan front, while reaching out to peace and expressing its desire to implement the Riyadh Agreement.

Hanashi expects the collapse of all bets on killing the Riyadh Agreement in the coming period, especially those made by the pro-Qatar-Turkey current within the government camp, which is now going through its weakest state as a result of many internal and regional factors imposed by the rapidly evolving events in the Yemeni file.

Just a few hours following the Arab coalition’s announcement that an agreement to stop the fighting and cease all forms of escalation was reached between the government forces and the STC forces, military operations resumed in Abyan governorate. The Arab coalition also announced that a new round of talks will be held in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, to discuss the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and the resumption of the work of political and military committees.

Informed sources told The Arab Weekly that the Yemeni government’s forces in Abyan launched on Tuesday their biggest attack since the outbreak of the confrontations, in a last attempt to change the military equation on the ground before the ceasefire measure came into force and before the arrival of the monitoring team of the Arab coalition. The team began its monitoring duties on the ground Wednesday morning.