STC president’s visit to Saudi Arabia revives Riyadh Agreement

Qatar and Turkey, which support forces loyal to the government of president Hadi, are escalating conflict in southern Yemen as they struggle to advance their agendas in the war-hit country.
Thursday 21/05/2020
A file picture of Aidarous al-Zoubeidi, head of Yemen’s Southern Transitional Council (STC), speaking in Aden. (AFP)
A file picture of Aidarous al-Zoubeidi, head of Yemen’s Southern Transitional Council (STC), speaking in Aden. (AFP)

ADEN –The visit of a leading delegation from the Southern Transitional Council (STC) to the Saudi capital Riyadh revived hopes that the Riyadh Agreement would be implemented.

The visit, which followed an official invitation from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, also thwarted an attempt by the Qatari-led camp within the government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi to control the political narrative in Yemen.

During his visit to Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s STC President Aidorous al-Zubaidi was accompanied by a delegation that included the head of the negotiating delegation, Nasser Al-Khubaji, and other STC members, namely Ali Al-Kathiri, Abdul Rahman Sheikh, and the deputy head of the Foreign Relations Department, Mohammed Al-Ghaithi.

The details of Zubaidi’s schedule were not revealed, but it was confirmed he would be meeting with the Saudi crown prince to lay out the STC’s vision for Yemen and the humanitarian and health implications of the latest clashes in Aden. The composition of the STC’s delegation, however, indicates that the Riyadh Agreement will top the agenda.

STC spokesman Nizar Haitham said the visit comes as part of the STC leadership’s efforts  to reach peace, stressing, “We are advocates of peace not war and this visit stresses our pursuit of peace through our desire, from the very first moment, to implement the Riyadh Agreement despite the government’s continuous attempts to hinder the pact.”

The STC delegation’s visit “comes in the framework of a continuous communication process between the council and the leadership of the Arab alliance, notably Saudi Arabia,” Mansour Saleh, deputy head of the STC’s media department, told The Arab Weekly.

“This visit also comes within the context of continuous consultation and discussion on many of issues, the most important of which are the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and developments on the Yemeni scene, including the war waged in the south and on the outskirts of Abyan by forces loyal to Al Islah party, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement which enjoys the support of Qatar and Turkey,” he added.

“Zubaidi will discuss a number of issues on this visit to clarify STC’s view of the confrontations and renew the council’s commitment to the Riyadh agreement. Zubaidi will also discuss the deteriorating humanitarian, service and health situation in Aden and the spread of epidemics and diseases that was exacerbated by the government’s failure to carry out its tasks and duties,” Saleh said.

The visit came after successive attacks by Muslim Brotherhood-backed government forces on Abyan, east of Aden.

Qatar and Turkey, which support forces loyal to the government of Hadi, are escalating conflict in southern Yemen as they struggle to advance their agendas in the war-hit country.

On April 25, the STC declared a plan to establish self-rule in Aden and other areas under its control, blaming the Yemeni government of intransigence and mismanagement of the country’s many crises.

Yemeni political researcher Hussein Laqur bin Eidan told the Arab Weekly that Zubaidi’s visit to Riyadh “is important because it comes after months of the government’s stalling and neglect when it comes to the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, especially after carrying out military actions that contradict the pact itself.”

Bin Eidan said the main problem facing Yemen is “there is no longer one legitimacy but rather multiple legitimacies and centers of power and control.”

He added: “The rupture in the legitimacy camp is not yielding solutions that can hold. Hence, I believe there are attempts to create a new legitimacy that will allow for a continuation of the battle against the Houthi militia.”

Fighters from of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) in the Sheikh Salim area in the southern Abyan province. (AFP)
Fighters from of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) in the Sheikh Salim area in the southern Abyan province. (AFP)

Bin Eidan pointed out that “Zubaidi was entrusted with the STC’s leadership following a political and military victory, echoed by the failure of the government, the Muslim Brotherhood and extremist groups to reach their destructive goals in Abyan or Aden.”

The STC’s victory “enhances chances of discussing the formation of a technocratic government while focusing on the humanitarian and service aspects that have reached an unprecedented level of deterioration,” he added.

Attacks on Aden by Muslim Brotherhood-backed forces are viewed by many observers as a waste of times and resources, aimed at confusing the intervention of the Arab-led coalition at a time when Iran-backed Houthis are in control of Al-Jouf, threatening an attack on Marib and preparing to launch a new offensive against in Al-Bayda.