Yemen PM returns to Aden under deal with separatists

Aden (AFP) –


Yemen's prime minister on Monday flew back to the southern city of Aden under the terms of a peace deal with southern separatists who expelled the government from its provisional capital in August.

The return from Riyadh of Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed and four other ministers, initially planned for last week but delayed for logistical reasons, follows the November deal with separatists who had chased the government out of the port city.

Fighters of the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) last August seized control of Aden, which had become the seat of government after it was driven out of Yemen's capital Sanaa in 2014 by Huthi rebels.

The STC and the government, which are technically allies in the fight against the Huthis, inked a power-sharing deal in Riyadh on November 5 under Saudi mediation.

As well as heralding the government's return to Aden, it laid the foundation for forming a new 24-member cabinet with equal representation for southerners, including the STC.

Yemen's President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi has lived in Riyadh since Sanaa fell to the Huthis.

A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 as the Huthi rebels closed in on Aden, prompting Hadi to flee into Saudi exile.

Infighting in Yemen's south had posed a headache for regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which remains focused on confronting the Iran-aligned Huthis.

The war within a war also raised fears that Yemen could disintegrate, threatening to sharpen a humanitarian crisis in the country that the United Nations has termed as the world's worst.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said the deal would "open a new period of stability in Yemen".

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said it was "important to the political efforts to achieve peace in the country".

Yemen's conflict has since 2015 killed tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, and driven millions more to the brink of famine.