Saudi, UAE renew call for south Yemen peace talks

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates renewed a call on Monday for peace talks between Yemen’s government and southern separatists, urging a ceasefire following deadly clashes.

The Yemeni government has previously insisted it would only take part in talks after separatist forces withdraw from positions they seized in interim capital Aden earlier this month.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi both technically back the internationally recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in a four-year military intervention against Huthi rebels based in Yemen’s north.

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But the government has openly accused the UAE of backing forces loyal to the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC).

The UAE-backed Security Belt force, dominated by STC loyalists, took control of Aden on August 10 following deadly clashes with government troops that left at least 40 people dead.

In a joint statement Monday, the Saudi and Emirati foreign ministries urged both sides to cooperate with a coalition committee and to attend talks in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

The two countries “call for the speedy engagement in the Jeddah dialogue called by Saudi Arabia to address the causes and consequences of developments in some southern provinces,” they said.

Facing pressure from Saudi Arabia, the STC has partially withdrawn from some positions it occupied in Aden, but it retains control of key military sites. 

Fighting flared again between loyalists and secessionists on Thursday night in the southern province of Shabwa, leaving 11 dead according to medics.

Yemen’s Prime Minister Mueen Abdulmalek made a surprise visit to provincial capital Ataq after the fighting, the official SABA news agency reported on Monday.

Coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki urged all parties on Monday to observe a ceasefire.

Yemen’s defence ministry on Sunday reiterated accusations that the UAE was backing the separatists attacks on government positions in a number of southern provinces.

But in its statement, the coalition “rejected and condemned accusations and defamation campaigns” targeting the UAE, recalling the country’s efforts against the Huthis.

The STC is demanding renewed independence for South Yemen, which was a separate country before unification in 1990.

The coalition intervened in support of the Yemeni government in 2015 after the Huthis seized the capital Sanaa and most of the Arab world’s poorest nation.

Since then, the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, aid agencies say. 

The fightings has sparked what the United Nations labels the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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