Saudi-led committee strikes deal between government and separatists in Yemen

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Time: 14 January, 2020

Yemeni Southern Transitional Council member and former Aden Governor Nasser Al-Khabji, left, and Yemen’s deputy Prime Minister Salem Al-Khanbashi sign a power-sharing deal in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (File/Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP)
  • Griffiths hailed the steps taken so far under the Riyadh Agreement
  • The PM will return to Aden, while military units will retreat to positions they held before

AL-MUKALLA: A Saudi-led military committee tasked with enforcing the arrangements of the Riyadh Agreement made a significant breakthrough on Monday, convincing Yemeni military commanders to reposition their forces in the south of Yemen, officials said on Tuesday.
The committee visited military bases in Aden, Lahi and Abyan, meeting with commanders from both the government and the separatists to discuss accelerating the redeployment of forces.
A senior government official — who spoke to Arab News on condition of anonymity — said that two government military brigades that took part in fighting against forces loyal to the separatist Southern Transitional Council last year would be deployed in the Thubab area near the Red Sea and Abyan’s Lawder district, while separatists agreed to withdraw some forces from Aden.
“Under the arrangements approved yesterday, the Presidential Protection Forces will enter Aden and will be assigned to protect the presidential palace,” the official said. “Al Zamik’s brigade will go to Thubab and Al Subaihi’s will be deployed in Lawder,” he added, referring to Brig. Lou’i Al-Zamiki, the commander of the 3rd Presidential Protection Forces Brigade, and brigadier Abdullah Al-Subaihi, the commander of the 39th Armored Brigade.
The two brigades will reinforce government forces battling Houthis in Baydha, Hodeida and Taiz. The separatist Southern Transitional Council, the official said, will send back soldiers that came to Aden in August to their bases in Lahj’s Radfan district.
In November, Saudi Arabia brokered a deal between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council aimed at defusing tensions between the two parties following heavy clashes in Aden, Abyan and Shabwa last year.
Under the deal, the prime minister will return to Aden, while military units will retreat to the positions they held before August — handing over heavy weapons to a team from the Saudi-led coalition. Those weapons will be distributed to military units battling the Iran-backed Houthis. Yemen’s president will then appoint new governors and security chiefs for Aden, Lahj and Dhale, and name a new coalition government. The official said the next step would be to discuss the situation in the province of Shabwa.
“They will start implementing arrangements for Aden and Abyan. All heavy weapons — including tanks, anti-aircraft guns and artillery — will be collected in one place,” the official said, adding that pro-government Abu Misha’al Al Zamiki, Abyan’s chief of security, will return to the town of Zinjibar to replace the separatist’s own security measures in the near future.
Speaking to Arab News on Monday night about the joint military committee’s visit to the Southern Transitional Council’s military base, Nizar Haytham, a spokesperson for the council, said. “This is a positive step. We hope it will be followed by the government’s withdrawal from Shabwa and Abyan.” Haytham also said that the council had swapped eight prisoners with the government in exchange for 35 separatists taken prisoner in August.
At a meeting with Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Tuesday, the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths hailed the steps taken so far under the Riyadh Agreement and expressed his hope that more will follow, leading to a comprehensive peace deal. Hadi reiterated his commitment to the UN-led peace process in Yemen.

This article was first published in Arab News

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