A Saudi-brokered deal to end a standoff between Yemen‘s internationally recognised government and southern separatists in the port city of Aden is expected to be announced on Thursday, officials have said.
Saudi Arabia, leading the Arab coalition battling Yemen’s Houthi movement, has been hosting indirect talks for a month between the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) to end the power struggle that had opened a new front in the multi-faceted war.
The STC is part of the military alliance that intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to restore Hadi’s government after it was removed from power in the capital, Sanaa, by the Houthis.
In August, the separatists, who seek self-rule in the south, turned on the government and seized its interim seat of Aden.
Riyadh has been trying to refocus the coalition on fighting the Houthis on its border. The Houthis have repeatedly launched missiles and drone strikes against Saudi cities during the conflict, widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Two officials in Hadi’s government told Reuters news agency that the pact to end the Aden standoff would be signed in Riyadh on Thursday.
STC leader Aidarous al-Zubaidi, who has been involved in the month-long talks in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, was on his way to Riyadh on Wednesday, according to a post on his Twitter account.
The Saudi-brokered deal calls for a government reshuffle to include the STC and the restructuring of armed forces under Saudi supervision.
Saudi forces took control of Aden after Emirati troops withdrew last week.
Hadi’s government has asked the UAE to stop supporting the STC. Abu Dhabi criticised Hadi’s government as ineffective and distrusts groups with whom he is allied.
Resolving the power struggle in the south and easing Houthi-Saudi tensions would aid UN efforts to restart peace talks to end the war that has killed tens of thousands of people.
The Iran-aligned Houthi group, which controls Sanaa and most big urban centres, extended the truce offer last month after claiming responsibility for strikes on Saudi oil facilities on September 14 that Riyadh blamed on Iran, a charge Tehran denies.
Riyadh has said it views the truce offer “positively”.
Easing Saudi-Houthi tensions and resolving the Aden crisis would bolster UN efforts to pave the way for political talks to end the war that has killed tens of thousands and pushed millions to the brink of famine.