DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Saudi-led coalition mired in a yearslong war in Yemen on Monday urged Emirati-backed separatists to honor terms of a Riyadh peace deal and return control of Aden to the country’s internationally recognized government.
The statement by Saudi Arabia comes after the separatists’ Southern Transitional Council again claimed sole control Sunday of Aden, a Red Sea port that serves as the internationally recognized government’s capital as rebel Houthi forces still hold Sanaa.
The council’s decision adds yet more complexity to the grinding war in Yemen that has pushed the Arab world’s poorest nation to the brink of famine and killed over 100,000 people.
The Saudi statement urged the council to return to the terms of the November 2019 Riyadh agreement, which ended earlier fighting after the council seized control of Aden just a few months earlier.
That deal had called for all sides to remove heavy military equipment from Yemeni cities under their control and form a unity government that included equal representation. But that deal had yet to be implemented as the war continued, massive floods struck Aden and Yemen faces the threat of the coronavirus pandemic and the COVID-19 illness it causes.
In its statement, the Saudi-led coalition urged the council to honor the deal “to unite Yemeni ranks, restore state institutions and combat the scourge of terrorism.”
The deal “entails forming a competent government that operate from the interim capital Aden to tackle economic and developmental challenges, in light of natural disasters such as floods, fears of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and work to provide services to the brotherly people of Yemen.”
The statement offered no warning on what Saudi Arabia would do if the council refused. The kingdom, itself focused on the coronavirus outbreak there, began a unilateral cease-fire with the Houthis in April that it said will continue through the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
The Southern Transitional Council had been the on-the-ground allies of the United Arab Emirates, once Saudi Arabia’s main partner in the war that subsequently withdrew from the conflict. The council’s backers often fly the flag of former Communist South Yemen and have pushed to again split the country into two like it was from 1967 to 1990.
The Houthis in 2014 overran major parts of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa, pushing out the internationally recognized government. The Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict backing the internationally recognized government in 2015.
Image: In this Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018 file photo, soldiers allied to Yemen’s internationally recognized government fly the South Yemen flag at the port of Aden in Aden, Yemen. A Saudi-led coalition mired in a yearslong war in Yemen on Monday urged Emirati-backed separatists to honor terms of a Riyadh peace deal and return control of Aden to the country’s internationally recognized government. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell, File)