Yemen prime minister in Riyadh as crisis with separatists continues

Tensions have mounted as southern separatists reportedly prevented government forces from entering the interim capital Aden.
Thursday 13/02/2020
Aidarous al-Zoubeidi, head of Yemen's Southern Transitional Council (STC), speaks during an interview with AFP in the southern city of Aden on January 16. (AFP)
Aidarous al-Zoubeidi, head of Yemen's Southern Transitional Council (STC), speaks during an interview with AFP in the southern city of Aden on January 16. (AFP)

LONDON - As the crisis between Yemen's internationally recognised government and Southern Transitional Council (STC) continues, Yemeni Prime Minister Mueen Abdulmalek has travelled to Riyadh for consultations with President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

According to local reports, the prime minister has been based in the temporary capital, Aden, for the past three months as part of efforts to implement the Riyadh Agreement.

However, tensions with the STC have continued to mount, most recently due to southern separatists reportedly preventing government forces from entering the interim capital Aden.

While the Yemeni prime minister is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia has dispatched a military committee tasked with reviving the Riyadh agreement between the government and the STC.

The talks did not go well, according to sources, with the STC insisting that the government's Presidential Protection forces withdraw from their stations in the southern town of Shoqra.

Saudi Arabia has also sent reinforcements to the Yemeni army on the island of Socotra, where there have also been ongoing tensions with southern separatists.

Officers from the First Infantry Brigade's Coastal Protection Battalion in Socotra recently defected from the ranks of the Yemeni government and pledged allegiance to the STC.

Socotra’s mayor reacted by giving the defectors a 24-hour grace period to re-join the government’s ranks.

However, after the deadline expired, the Yemeni army reportedly dismissed the defectors from its ranks. According to an official statement, after the Yemeni army held a meeting in the presence of representatives of the Arab Coalition to address the insurgency, it was decided to dismiss the commander of the coast guard regiment as a first step to ending what the army described as an “insurgency.”

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, whose primary goal is the re-establishment of South Yemen as an independent state.

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