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ConflictsMiddle East

Yemen separatists abandon self-rule

July 29, 2020

The Southern Transitional Council has backed down on its declaration of self-rule following pressure from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This could help pave the way for peace talks to begin again in the war-torn country.

Yemen STC supporters
Image: Getty Images/AFP

Yemen's southern separatists on Wednesday abandoned their declaration of self-rule and pledged to implement a stalled peace deal brokered by Saudi Arabia.

"We have achieved our goals," Nizar Haitham, spokesperson for the separatists' Southern Transitional Council (STC) announced on Twitter. "We affirm the continuation and deepening of our strategic partnership with the Arab coalition."

The power-sharing deal, known as the Riyadh Agreement, was signed in the Saudi capital last fall. It was intended to end a long-running rivalry between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and the United Arab Emirate-backed southern separatists.

But the pact broke down when the STC announced self-governance in April, seizing the southern port city and Yemen's working capital, Aden. They accused the government of multiple failings and "conspiring" against those in the south.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both Sunni states, have partnered with each other during the Yemen war to fight Iran-allied Shiite Houthi rebels, who in 2014 took control of northern Yemen.

'Accelerating' peace

Significant pressure from Saudi Arabia and the UAE played a role in the STC going back on its declaration of self-rule, Haitham acknowledged in a tweet.

The announcement from the STC comes as Saudi Arabia proposed a plan to "accelerate" the implementation of the agreement, the official Saudi Press Agency reported early Wednesday.

Under the revised plan, Yemen's prime minister has been called to create a fresh government within 30 days. It also calls for the withdrawal of rival forces from Aden and the flashpoint southern province of Abyan and the appointment of a new governor and security director for Aden.

Read more: Yemen's war explained in 4 key points

World's worst humanitarian disaster

The war broke out after Houthi rebels seized northern Yemen in 2014. It has contributed to what UN officials have described as the world's worst humanitarian disaster, with an estimated 85,000 people having died as a cause of war-induced famine.

Throughout the war, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been partners in a military coalition fighting to oust the northern rebels. But the standoff between their respective Yemeni allies has frequently erupted into violence, complicating broader peace efforts.

Fears are growing that a coronavirus outbreak could add pressure to the already dilapidated social and economic infrastructure of the country.

kmm/sms (AP,AFP)