Yemen’s STC abandons ‘self-rule declaration’, facilitates implementing Riyadh Agreement

Developments are part of a new framework unveiled by Saudi Arabia to resolve the row among the allies and implement their power-sharing deal.
Wednesday 29/07/2020

ADEN--Yemen’s Southern Transitional Council (STC) rescinded a declaration of self-rule on Wednesday and a new governor was appointed for the contested city of Aden, after a push by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to reunite allies in a fight against Iran-backed Houthi militias.

Since late year, Riyadh has been seeking to end a conflict between the STC and the Saudi-backed government, which has been based in Aden for five years after being driven from the capital Sana’a by the Houthis.

The government and the STC are the main Yemeni forces in a Saudi-led anti-Houthi coalition. But the Yemeni allies have been in a standoff since last August when the STC took over Aden.

A power-sharing deal between them in November, called the Riyadh Agreement, was never implemented. The STC declared self rule in April and the two sides have been fighting in Aden and other southern regions.

Wednesday’s developments were part of a new framework unveiled by Saudi Arabia to resolve the quarrel among the allies and implement their power-sharing deal.

The STC “announces that it is abandoning its self-rule declaration” to allow the implementation of a power-sharing deal known as the Riyadh Agreement, spokesman Nizar Haitham wrote on Twitter.

He acknowledged the announcement came after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates exerted pressure to row back on their decision.

Saudi Arabia said it had proposed a plan to “accelerate” the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, the official Saudi Press Agency reported early Wednesday.

The framework calls for a new governor for Aden. Yemeni government news agency Sabanet said a new governor, Ahmed al-Amlas, was appointed on Wednesday. The agency also quoted a government official as welcoming the Saudi initiative.

Saudi Arabia’s state news agency said Yemen’s prime minister would now form a cabinet within 30 days, representing north and south Yemen equally and including STC representatives.

Military forces should leave the Aden governorate, forces in neighbouring Abyan province should separate and return to previous positions, and a ceasefire agreed in June should continue, the Saudi announcement said.

Saudi Arabia’s “efforts have succeeded in bringing together the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council in accepting the proposed mechanism by the kingdom to implement the Riyadh agreement,” the Saudi deputy Defence Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman wrote on Twitter.

“[The] efforts in bringing together Yemeni political leaders… and reaching consensus on the mechanism for implementing the Riyadh Agreement shows the possibility of resolving Yemeni differences through dialogue without the use (of) military force,” he added.

The UAE, which scaled down its military presence in Yemen last year, also welcomed the Saudi initiative, and urged all Yemeni forces to cooperate in the fight against the Houthis, according to a foreign ministry statement carried by state news agency WAM.

The Yemen war has driven millions of people to the verge of starvation, requiring the world’s biggest humanitarian response.

The dispute within the anti-Houthi camp has been holding up UN efforts to negotiate a ceasefire in the wider conflict. The United Nations has been holding virtual talks between the warring parties to agree to a permanent ceasefire and a restart to peace negotiations, which were last held in December 2018.

The UN Yemen envoy, Martin Griffiths, said on Tuesday the window of opportunity to reach an agreement was limited.

“There is a real risk that these negotiations will slip away, and that Yemen will enter a new phase of prolonged escalation, of the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19, and of severe and threatening economic decline,” he told the UN Security Council.