Yemen government, separatists agree to truce

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

A military vehicle belonging to Yemen's southern separatist forces blocks the entrance at a local administration building on the strategic island of Socotra on June 22nd. [AFP]

A military vehicle belonging to Yemen's southern separatist forces blocks the entrance at a local administration building on the strategic island of Socotra on June 22nd. [AFP]

The Yemeni government and separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) have agreed to a full ceasefire and de-escalation in Socotra island and Abyan province in response to a Monday (June 22nd) call by the Arab coalition.

The truce agreement came as Arab coalition forces intercepted and destroyed drones and missiles launched against Saudi Arabia by the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) from Yemen, AFP reported.

Arab coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki said the coalition welcomed the positive response to its call for a ceasefire and de-escalation between the government and STC, both of which have been battling the Houthis.

Both sides are slated to attend a meeting in the kingdom to discuss the implementation of the power-sharing agreement between them, signed in Riyadh in November, and the return of political and military committees.

"The coalition deplores the recent developments in a number of southern Yemen provinces, and calls on all parties to give priority to the national interests of Yemen and its people and their security and stability," al-Maliki said.

He called for an end to bloodshed, compliance with the Riyadh Agreement, returning the situation to normal on Socotra, entering into a ceasefire in Abyan, and avoiding escalation in all other provinces, including in the media.

"The Coalition Command will deploy observers on the ground in Abyan to monitor the ceasefire and separate between the forces," al-Maliki added.

The Arab coalition "will stand shoulder to shoulder with Yemen and support its efforts to restore its state, security, stability and territorial integrity", he said.

'Continue to engage constructively'

STC forces on Saturday announced they had seized control of the strategically located Socotra island following days of armed clashes with Yemeni forces.

Yemeni forces also have clashed with STC forces in Abyan and parts of Shabwa province, following the failure to implement the Riyadh Agreement.

On June 18th, local media reported that Saudi Arabia had presented a new proposal to encourage the government and STC to implement the agreement.

In a June 21st statement, UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths urged all parties to stop military escalation, saying "it goes against the spirit of the ongoing UN-facilitated negotiations".

He stressed the need "to continue to engage constructively with the UN efforts to alleviate the suffering of Yemenis, in view of the spread of COVID-19".

In a video conference meeting, the Yemeni government said its acceptance of the truce "comes in the framework of its continuous and positive interaction with the efforts of the Saudi brothers to implement the Riyadh Agreement".

"No further procrastination or delays can be tolerated, and the so-called self-administration must be immediately cancelled and political and military committees must urgently return, to start implementing the Riyadh Agreement."

The STC also welcomed the Arab coalition's call for a ceasefire in Abyan and de-escalation in the southern provinces.

In a statement aired by local media, STC spokesman Nizar Haitham also stressed the need to immediately resume the implementation of the Riyadh agreement, noting the Arab coalition's role in supporting peace and stability.

"I call upon the great people of southern Yemen to be patient and exercise self-control," he said, stressing the STC's unwavering stance from the legitimate aspirations of the southern people.

Praise for Saudi Arabia's leadership

Deputy Minister of Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez said the Yemeni government trusts Saudi Arabia to implement the Riyadh Agreement.

This trust "stems from the Saudi efforts to reach and implement the agreement, given that they exerted great efforts in bringing the parties together and held marathon talks", he said.

"The first foundation for the successful implementation of Riyadh Agreement is the presence of a clear desire and good leadership on the part of STC to continue to work as part of the legitimate government," he said.

"The second foundation is the presence of Saudi and coalition forces on the ground, given that their presence will serve as a safety valve for the implementation and normalisation of relations between the government... and STC representatives," he added.

"Pulling out the STC forces from Aden, ending all manifestations of their military presence, and forming a government will give a positive indication of the successful implementation of the agreement," Abdul Hafeez said.

Political analyst Adel al-Shujaa told Al-Mashareq the Arab coalition would succeed in implementing the agreement if it returned to its original goals.

Foremost among these is the restoration of the state and its institutions from the Houthis, he said, noting that "in this case, all parties will abide by measures that help maintain Yemen's unity and legitimacy".

Arab coalition forces managed "to intercept and destroy a ballistic missile" launched by the Houthis from Sanaa towards Riyadh in "a deliberate hostile operation", al-Maliki said Tuesday.

Coalition forces had intercepted "eight booby-trapped unmanned aircraft to target civilian objects and civilians in the kingdom" as well as "three ballistic missiles from Saada governorate towards the kingdom", he said.

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