A separatist group in Yemen announces its autonomy in the south of the country

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ADEN (Reuters) – The Yemeni separatist Southern Transition Council (STC) announced early Sunday that it would establish autonomy in areas under their control, which the Saudi-backed government says would “Catastrophic consequences”.

The move threatens to reignite the conflict between nominal allies in Yemen’s multifaceted war as the United Nations seeks a permanent truce to fight the coronavirus pandemic in a country weakened by hunger and disease.

Witnesses to Reuters reported the deployment of the STC’s armed forces to Aden, the interim headquarters of the internationally recognized government supported by the Saudi-led military coalition that includes the STC.

In a statement, the STC announced emergency rules in Aden and in all the southern governorates.

Last year, the STC, which is supported by the main partner of the Riyadh coalition, the United Arab Emirates, denounced the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and seized Aden, the violence extending to other southern regions.

Saudi Arabia negotiated an agreement in November between them to form a more inclusive government and place all forces under state control, but the new cabinet was not formed.

“The announcement by the so-called transitional council of its intention to set up a southern administration is a resumption of its armed insurrection … and an announcement of its rejection and its complete withdrawal from the Riyadh agreement”, said Yemeni Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Al-Hadhrami. said in a ministry statement on Twitter.

The STC “will bear the dangerous and catastrophic consequences of such an announcement alone,” the statement said.

CORONAVIRUS CEASEFIRE

Yemen has been mired in violence since the Iran-aligned Houthi movement ousted Hadi’s government from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the Saudi-led coalition to intervene on behalf of Hadi in March 2015.

The conflict, seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been in a military impasse for years and the Houthis still hold most of the major cities despite the fighting that has claimed more than 100,000 lives.

On Friday, the coalition extended a one-sided nationwide ceasefire by one month, prompted by a United Nations appeal to focus on the coronavirus pandemic. The Houthis did not accept the initial two-week truce and the violence continued in several provinces.

While Yemen has reported only one confirmed case of new coronavirus, aid groups fear a catastrophic epidemic if it spreads among a malnourished population in a country with broken health systems and screening capabilities inadequate.

The UN is attempting to convene virtual talks to forge a permanent truce, coordinate efforts to fight coronaviruses, and agree on humanitarian and economic confidence measures to restart stalled peace negotiations since the end of 2018.

The STC, which has said it wants to participate in any political negotiations, withdrew in January from the committees implementing the Riyadh agreement, which Saudi Arabia had hailed as a step towards a broader political solution to the war.

The United Arab Emirates, which, like STC, opposes the Islamist party Islah, which is the backbone of Hadi’s government, has greatly reduced its presence in the war last year, but retains its influence thanks to the thousands of fighters. from the south that it supports.

Report by Mohammed Ghobari and Mohammed Mukhashef in Yemen; Additional reports by Nayera Abdallah in Cairo; Writing by Dahlia Nehme and Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Diane Craft and Christian Schmollinger

Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.

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