Yemen’s STC and Hadi government said to agree on ceasefire
RIYADH –The Saudi-led coalition announced on Monday that Yemen’s Southern Transitional Council (STC) and the country’s government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi have agreed to a ceasefire after months of infighting.
Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said delegates from the STC and the Yemeni government were meeting in the Saudi capital of Riyadh to push the implementation of a November 2019 deal that ended earlier fighting.
Violence has flared since the Muslim Brotherhood, represented by al-Islah party, escalated its meddling in the country’s affairs to serve a Qatari-sponsored agenda.
This meddling of the Muslim Brotherhood, backed by foreign forces, infuriated the STC, leading the southern council to declare self-rule over the key port city of Aden and other southern provinces in April.
The renewed clashes reopened a new front inside the larger civil war, which has killed over 112,000 people and ignited what the United Nations has labelled the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The intensifying split in the south has also hobbled authorities’ response to the coronavirus pandemic and complicated attempts to jump-start a wider peace process.
Maliki denounced recent clashes in the remote island of Socotra in the Gulf of Aden, a UNESCO World Heritage site, as well as the southern province of Abyan.
The STC appointed a new Socotra governor Monday after its fighters effectively seized control of the area amid fighting that threatened to cause irreparable harm to the island’s rare plant and animal species.
The Yemeni government rejected STC’s advances as a “coup” and on Monday called for the release of local journalist Abdullah Badhan, who was arrested in a sweep of civilians, according to the Information Ministry.
The STC’s sudden victory in Socotra appears to have given the group leverage in truce negotiations.
The coalition urged all parties to “stop the bloodshed by adhering to the Riyadh agreement,” which stipulated the handover of heavy weapons, the withdrawal of rival forces and the formation of a new government.
Maliki said the coalition would deploy forces to monitor a ceasefire in the flashpointt Abyan governorate, which lies between government and STC forces.
Nizar Haitham, a spokesman for the STC, welcomed the coalition’s calls for a ceasefire and de-escalation across Yemen’s southern governorates.
In a statement, he emphasised the urgent need to implement the Riyadh deal and thanked Saudi Arabia for its diplomatic role.
Rajeh Badi, a spokesman for Yemen’s government, said it welcomed the move and would work toward de-escalation across the southern provinces.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted his appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s “relentless efforts to achieve stability in Yemen.”
Yemen’s descent into turmoil started in 2014 when Iran-backed Shia Houthi rebels overran the capital Sana’a and much of the country’s north, driving the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile.
A US-backed, Saudi-led coalition intervened the following year to try and restore Hadi’s rule. The costly war has settled into a stalemate, compelling major regional players to seek a way out. This spring, Saudi Arabia declared a unilateral ceasefire, which quickly collapsed.
As the rebels gain ground in the north, near the Saudi border, the kingdom “wants to invest in seeing a unified Yemeni front against the Houthis,” said Fatima Abo Alasrar, a non-resident scholar at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.
The government has rapidly lost credibility, she said, leaving Saudi Arabia “in an embarrassing position,” caught between Hadi and the STC even as Houthis escalate their attacks.
Late Monday, the Saudi-led coalition said it intercepted “a number” of bomb-carrying drones launched by the Houthis targeting the kingdom.
A brief statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency suggested other drones may have slipped Saudi air defenses, without elaborating.
The Iran-backed rebels have frequently attacked the kingdom with both drones and cruise missiles during the years-long war.