CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – The main Yemeni separatist group will abandon its aspirations for self-government to implement a Saudi-brokered peace agreement, it announced Wednesday morning. It would be a breakthrough to close a dangerous gap between theoretical allies in a chaotic war with foreign influences.
The separatists will give up autonomy in southern Yemen to bet on the Riyadh deal, said Nizar Haitham, a spokesman for the separatist Southern Transitional Council, which brings together several militias with the backing of the United Arab Emirates.
« We have achieved our goals, » Haitham said, noting that they had been under great pressure from the Saudi and Emirati governments. « We affirm the continuation and deepening of our strategic alliance with the Arab coalition. »
The power-sharing agreement, signed in the Saudi capital last fall, paved the way to end the long-standing rivalry between the Yemeni government, with Saudi support, and the southern separatists, with Emirati support. The deal suffered a setback this year when separatists seized the southern city of Aden, where the internationally recognized government headquarters were, sparking fierce fighting in southern Yemen and the Socotra archipelago.
Saudi Arabia declared on Wednesday morning that it had proposed a plan to « speed up » the implementation of the agreement, which calls for the creation of a new government in 30 days and the appointment of a new governor and security director for Aden, according to the official. Saudi Press Agency.
Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, two Sunni Arab states, have been partners during the war in a military coalition trying to defeat the Houthi rebels, a Shiite group allied with Iran that took northern Yemen in 2014.
The pulse between their respective allies in Yemen has often led to violent clashes, threatening to fragment the Saudi leadership coalition and complicate peace efforts to end a conflict that in five years has claimed more than 112,000 lives and caused the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.
Although the deal is unlikely to be a step toward lasting peace, even a vague promise of resolution was welcomed, as Yemen’s devastated health sector grapples with a large coronavirus outbreak and the country suffers from a drastic decline in humanitarian aid. 75% of United Nations programs in the country have been forced to suspend or reduce operations.
The United Nations special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, on Tuesday made a grim description of the outlook in the country before the Security Council.
UN-mediated peace negotiations between the government and rebels have failed to reach an agreement, he said. The Houthi forces advance on the Marib oil province « with profound economic and humanitarian consequences. » Several children have been killed in air strikes in the northwest of the country. The economy collapses, food prices rise, and to make matters worse, an abandoned oil tanker stranded offshore with more than a million barrels of oil is in danger of exploding or breaking.
Griggiths warned that the country could join at any time in « a new phase of prolonged escalation, uncontrolled expansion of COVID-19 and economic decline. »