US urges Yemen factions to implement Riyadh deal

The Saudi Foreign Ministry urged Yemen’s government and the southern separatists to implement the Riyadh Agreement.
Sunday 22/03/2020
A member of Yemen’s southern separatist-dominated Security Belt Forces stands guard during a meeting of the Southern Transitional Council in Aden. (AFP)
Continued strife. A member of Yemen’s southern separatist-dominated Security Belt Forces stands guard during a meeting of the Southern Transitional Council in Aden. (AFP)

LONDON - The United States implored Yemen’s internationally recognised government and the secessionist Southern Transitional Council to immediately implement a peace deal brokered last November by Saudi Arabia.

“The United States supports the efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to facilitate the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement,” the US Embassy in Yemen said on Twitter. The statement urged feuding factions to “overcome their differences and implement the agreement without delay in the interest of all Yemenis.”

The Saudi Foreign Ministry previously urged Yemen’s government and the southern separatists to implement the Riyadh Agreement and put the country’s “national interest first.”

The call from the United States echoing Riyadh’s plea comes when tensions continue to escalate between the government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC), regional media reported.

The pro-southern Aden al-Ghad reported that STC Security Belt fighters closed the Presidential Palace and prevented ministers from meeting there.

The meeting was to include the ministers of education, higher education and health to discuss the coronavirus outbreak, Yemen’s Al-Masdar News reported.

The website earlier reported the arrival of STC reinforcements to Aden’s western district of Bir Ahmed and near the palace.

A senior coalition commander reportedly returned to Saudi Arabia for consultations after forces loyal to the UAE-backed STC refused to hand the airport over to Saudi-trained forces.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition played down the spat.

The Riyadh Agreement “contributed to the return of normalcy” to Aden, coalition spokesman Saudi Colonel Turki al-Malki told Al Arabiya. He denied the existence of “any rift between the STC and the coalition.”

“We are trying to revive projects and investments to rebuild Aden, rehabilitate the airport and develop the port there,” Malki said, while blaming reports of continued tensions on “ill-intentioned media.”

However, Yemeni media painted a different story, particularly to Socotra island, a flashpoint in the power struggle between the Yemeni government and the STC.

On March 18, pro-government forces and STC units engaged in heavy fighting on the island. Clashes broke out after STC fighters “stormed the port of the island and tried to take out weapons and equipment that the source claimed were on board an Emirati aid ship,” Al-Masdar News said.

A government military battalion based in Socotra earlier this year defected and pledged allegiance to the southern separatist movement.

For decades, many Southern Yemenis have felt exploited by leaders in the north, mainly the late former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his associates. The anti-Saleh sentiment led to the formation of the Southern Mobility Movement in 2007, which has the re-establishment of South Yemen as an independent state as its main goal.

STC President Aidarus al-Zoubaidi and Yemeni President Hadi have a history of bad blood between them, stemming from the time Hadi sacked him as Aden governor in May 2017, which led to Zoubaidi joining forces with the southern separatists, which eventually rebranded itself as the STC movement.

After several years of friction between the two sides, which occasionally resulted in fighting, matters escalated significantly in August 2019. During that period, fighting resulted in STC troops taking control of government positions in the temporary capital Aden.

Last November, Saudi Arabia sponsored a peace agreement between the Yemeni government and the STC. The deal called for the formation of a new government within 30 days of its signing. The agreement called for tens of thousands of STC fighters to be placed under the command of Yemen’s interior and defence ministries.

However, the deadline for the government’s formation expired with renewed hostilities and accusations between the two sides. An additional deal between the two sides was signed in January and resulted in a prisoner exchange.

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