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Yemen govt strikes power-sharing deal with southern separatists

Southern separatist fighters patrol a road during clashes with government forces in Aden, Yemen August 29, 2019
Southern separatist fighters patrol a road during clashes with government forces in Aden, Yemen August 29, 2019 Fawaz Salman, REUTERS
3 min

Yemen’s internationally recognised government has struck a power-sharing deal with southern separatists in a bid to end their infighting in the country's south, officials said on Friday.

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The deal would see the secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC) handed a number of ministries, and the government return to the southern city of Aden, according to officials and reports in Saudi media.

The officials said the separatists had agreed to disband their militias, which would be integrated into President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's forces. After Houthi rebels seized the capital, Saana, in 2014, Hadi first fled to Aden, and later to Saudi Arabia.

Hadi's forces and the separatists have clashed since August, though they're allies in the Saudi-led war against the Houthis.

"We signed the final draft of the agreement and are waiting for the joint signature within days," an STC official currently in Riyadh told AFP.

A Yemeni government official, declining to be named, confirmed the deal had been agreed and was expected to be signed by Tuesday.

It sets out "the reformation of the government, with the STC included in a number of ministries, and the return of the government to Aden within seven days after the agreement being signed", he said.

Saudi Arabia's Al-Ekhbariya state television said a government of 24 ministers would be formed, "divided equally between the southern and northern governorates of Yemen".

Al-Ekhbariya said the Saudi-led military coalition which backs the government against the Houthis would oversee a "joint committee" to implement the agreement.

Uneasy allies

The military coalition led by Saudi and the United Arab Emirates intervened in Yemen in 2015 as the Houthi rebels closed in on Aden.

The conflict has since killed tens of thousands of people -- most of them civilians -- and driven millions more to the brink of famine in what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Complicating the fighting in Yemen are deep schisms within the anti-Houthi camp. The supposedly pro-government forces in the south, where power is centred, include pro-independence factions from the north.

The south was an independent state before being forcibly unified in 1990, and the STC has said it wants to regain its lost status.

The separatists have received support and training from the United Arab Emirates, even though it is a key pillar in the Saudi-led coalition.

Abu Dhabi accuses Yemeni authorities of allowing Islamist elements to gain influence within their ranks.

The mistrust between the allies has posed a headache for regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which remains focused on fighting the Houthis who are aligned with Riyadh's arch foe Iran.

The UAE earlier this month handed over to Saudi forces key positions in Aden in a bid to defuse the tensions, and to support the negotiations towards a power-sharing deal.

Riyadh in recent days appointed a new foreign minister whose complicated portfolio also includes efforts to strike a broader Yemen peace deal.

The Houthis have offered to halt all attacks on Saudi Arabia as part of a peace initiative to end the devastating conflict, later repeating their proposal despite continued air strikes from the Saudi-led coalition.

The offer came after the Houthis claimed responsibility for attacks on September 14 against two key Saudi oil installations that temporarily knocked out half of the OPEC giant's production.

Riyadh and Washington, however, blamed Iran for the attacks -- a charge denied by Tehran.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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