The United Arab Emirates has urged the Yemeni southern separatists that took control of Aden, the temporary seat of Yemen’s government, to engage in dialogue to “defuse tensions”.
In a statement carried by Emirates News Agency on Monday, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan “affirmed that the UAE and Saudi Arabia call on conflicting Yemeni parties to prioritise dialogue and reason for the interest of Yemen and its people“.
He also said in the statement published after meeting Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz in the kingdom that the two Gulf Arab allies would “adamantly confront any and all powers that threaten the safety and security of the region”.
The meeting came after the Saudi-UAE-led coalition intervened in the southern port city of Aden on Sunday in support of the Yemeni government after the Security Belt – a militia aligned with the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC), which seeks the secession of the country’s south – announced it had taken over all government military camps as well as the presidential palace.
Following four consecutive days of fighting with forces loyal to the internationally-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, southern separatists effectively took over various parts of the city on Saturday, fracturing the Saudi-led alliance that has been battling the Houthi movement.
The International Committee for the Red Cross said on Monday that clinics had reported “scores dead” and hundreds wounded in the fighting, which threatened to open a new front in a conflict that has devastated the Arab world’s poorest country.
“Hospitals struggling without basic equipment. Wounded people dying as checkpoints prevent them reaching clinics,” the ICRC said in a tweet.
After 72 hours of fighting, the situation for people in Aden is desperate.
Clinics report scores dead. Hundreds injured.
Hospitals struggling without basic equipment.
Wounded people dying as checkpoints prevent them reaching clinics.
We are on the ground in Yemen. #thread
— ICRC (@ICRC) August 12, 2019
The STC leader Aidarous al-Zubaidi on Sunday said the council was committed to a ceasefire called by Saudi Arabia.
He said that he was ready to partake in Saudi-brokered peace talks following deadly clashes with pro-government forces, which according to the United Nations, killed up to 40 people and injured 260 others.
There have been no reports of clashes since then.
Al-Zubaidi added the separatists were also willing to work with the Saudi-UAE-led military coalition battling Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who control vast swaths of Yemen’s north, including the capital Sanaa.
In his speech, Zubaidi said last week’s violence had been “provoked” by forces loyal to the Riyadh-based Yemeni president.
Separatist fighters were left with “only two options: either self-defence, or surrender and accepting the liquidation of our just cause,” Zubaidi said, according to an English translation of his comments posted on the official STC website.
He claimed that loyalist forces wanted “to implement a plan based on the assassination of our leaders, and then to provoke our people and liquidate our presence”.
But Yemen’s government has accused the STC and the UAE of staging a “coup” against it.
Clashes between the two sides erupted on Wednesday when forces loyal to the STC attempted to break into the presidential palace in Aden after a call from former Cabinet Minister Hani Bin Braik, who serves as the council’s deputy head, to “topple” Hadi’s government.
Braik’s call came days after a Houthi-claimed air raid killed dozens, including a Security Belt commander during a military parade in Aden’s Buraiqa district.
Aden has been the temporary seat of Hadi’s government since the Houthi rebel movement seized the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting a military intervention the following year by the Saudi-led coalition in support of the president’s forces and aimed at stopping the rebels’ southern advance.
But this week’s deadly clashes between the UAE-backed separatists and the government troops highlighted a rift fracturing the alliance.
Saudi Arabia called for the ceasefire only after the Security Belt announced its takeover in Aden. Hadi, who according to Saudi Arabia’s state-run SPA news agency, met Saudi’s King Salman on Sunday, but has yet to comment publicly on the latest developments.
The internationally recognised government’s interior minister, however, blamed the presidential office and ally Saudi for remaining “silent” while acknowledging the UAE’s victory in the south.
The UAE, which recently announced the beginning of a troop withdrawal from Yemen, has armed and trained an estimated 90,000 allied fighters in the south.
South Yemen was an independent state until 1990. Strong resentment remains among southerners towards northerners, who they accuse of imposing national unification by force.
The latest events are not the first example of southern separatists opposing forces loyal to Hadi.
In January 2018, clashes between the two sides killed 38 people.