Middle EastSaudi ArabiaYemen

Yemen’s southern separatists withdraw from Riyadh Agreement committees

The UAE-backed separatists in southern Yemen say they have pulled out of committees implementing a recent power-sharing agreement with Saudi-backed forces loyal to ex-Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Back in November, the two warring sides — the separatist so-called Southern Transitional Council (STC) and the pro-Hadi militants — reached a deal through indirect talks to end months of infighting in the Yemeni port city of Aden and its surrounding areas. The deal is known as the Riyadh Agreement.

The two sides claimed that they wanted to form a new national cabinet and place all their forces under the control of a so-called internationally-recognized government.

Both the UAE-sponsored STC and the Saudi-backed militants loyal to Hadi serve the Riyadh-led military coalition and have been engaged, since March 2015, in a bloody war on Yemeni people aimed at reinstating the former president, who resigned in 2014 and later fled to the Saudi capital, and crushing the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement.

On Thursday, an unnamed STC spokesman told Reuters that the STC negotiating team had pulled out of joint committees working to implement the Riyadh Agreement, without mentioning the reason behind the withdrawal.

However, Salim al-Awlaqi, a member of the STC’s presidential council, tweeted that the decision had been made in protest against violence in Yemen’s Shabwa Province that separatists blamed on forces loyal to the Islah party, which is the backbone of Hadi’s so-called government.

Recent violence in Shabwa is part of a continuing struggle for influence between Hadi’s militia and the STC separatists, who accuse Hadi’s governing body of mismanagement and corruption and seized the “temporary capital,” Aden, in August, prompting the talks which led to the Riyadh Agreement.

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The separatists have long eyed independence for southern Yemen. Encouraged by the UAE, though, they had agreed to fight under the Saudi-led military coalition’s command.

Recently, and after a decision by the Emirates to effectively withdraw its forces from Yemen, the group has turned its weapons on rival militia loyal to Hadi.

The infighting highlighted deepening divisions between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the two countries that are leading the war on Yemen.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the Saudi-imposed war has so far claimed more than 100,000 lives in Yemen.

The war has also taken a heavy toll on Yemen’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. According to the United Nations, more than 24 million people are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.

In November, Yemeni Minister of Public Health and Population Taha al-Mutawakel said that every 10 minutes, a child under the age of five dies from extreme hunger in the war-ravaged country.

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