Yemen Separatists Commit to Aden Cease-Fire Demanded by Saudis

(Bloomberg) — Yemen’s southern separatists are committed to join the cease-fire with the recognized government in Aden as demanded by Saudi Arabia, Southern Transitional Council President Aidarous Al-Zubaidi said Sunday in a televised address.

“We are ready to work in a responsible way with the Saudi-led coalition in handling this crisis” and will attend a meeting sought by the Saudis, the major general said in the broadcast.

Al-Zubaidi, whose forces seized a key government building in Aden on Saturday, blamed guards at the presidential palace for flaring up a fight by opening fire on his supporters. He also reaffirmed the separatists’ stand in working with the coalition in the fight “Iranian expansion in the region.”

Al-Zubaidi spoke after the alliance fighting the four-year war in Yemen claimed in broadcasts on United Arab Emirates and Saudi state-backed media that STC forces had begun withdrawing from some of government-held areas captured a day earlier. Spokesman Nizar Haitham denied the report, saying STC forces had returned to the outer gates of the palace and eyewitnesses and residents of the city said normalcy had returned to the streets with some shops reopening.

Saudi media reported that the coalition bombarded the separatists in Aden early on Sunday after the recognized Yemeni government accused them and their backers in the U.A.E. of staging a coup. The STC issued a statement on its website accepting the cease-fire demanded by Saudi Arabia and agreeing to enter a dialogue.

‘Political Compromise’

The flareup in Aden marks the most significant setback for the coalition since it went to war in Yemen in 2015 to unseat Iran-backed Houthi rebels after they overran the capital Sana’a. Aden, the temporary seat of the internationally recognized government, has become a battleground between the regime, whose President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi resides in Saudi Arabia, and separatists backed by coalition-partner U.A.E.

“The southerners are ready for a political compromise away from the dominance or guardianship of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Houthis,” said Haitham.

Hadi, on a visit to Mecca with his deputy and prime minister, praised the Saudis for standing with his government and rejecting the “coup,” the government-held Saba News Agency said Sunday. The Yemeni leaders also met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz to discuss the situation in Aden.

Yemeni and Saudis are united in confronting the “Iranian agenda and its different hands in the north and south, seeking to destabilize the security and stability in Yemen and the region,” Hadi said, according to Saba.

Yemen’s Foreign Ministry accused the U.A.E. of helping the STC stage a coup in an unprecedented public rebuke of its ally. It demanded the U.A.E. withdraw its military support, according to a statement from Vice Minister Mohammed Al-Hadhrami, after STC forces said they seized the presidential palace in Aden.

The U.A.E., which is scaling back its troop presence in Yemen, did not publicly respond to the accusations. Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed on Saturday expressed “grave concern” about the developments, calling them a diversion from the war’s primary objective of fighting the Houthi rebels.

Saudi Arabia reiterated support for the “legitimate government,” Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman said Saturday in a series of tweets. “We reject any use of arms in Aden and breach of security and stability,” he said. The Saudis also invited the rebels to a meeting to resolve differences, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

–With assistance from Nadeem Hamid and Abbas Al Lawati.

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