Saudi-led coalition deploys ceasefire observers to southern Yemen

Saudi-led coalition deploys ceasefire observers to southern Yemen
Saudi-led coalition deploys ceasefire observers to southern Yemen

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - A file picture of the spokesman of the Saudi-led military coalition Colonel Turki al-Maliki speaking during a press conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (AFP)

ADEN – The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said Wednesday it had deployed observers to monitor the ceasefire between pro-government troops and forces of the Southern Transitional Council (STC), as military sources said fresh clashes had broken out.

Saudi forces arrived Wednesday in Shaqra and Sheikh Salem, two flashpoints in southern Yemen’s Abyan province, to monitor the truce that was announced only on Monday, military sources said.

“Observers have begun to be deployed on the ground to monitor the comprehensive ceasefire and separation of forces,” the coalition said Wednesday, according to Saudi government TV station Al-Ekhbariya.

“Both parties have affirmed their commitment to respect the ceasefire, to de-escalate and normalise the situation, and to implement the Riyadh Agreement,” it added.

The Riyadh Agreement, which was struck last November but quickly became defunct, is a power-sharing deal for the south.

The conflict has emerged as a second front in a country already split by a five-year war between Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who control the capital Sana’a and the north, and the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi , which was forced south to the interim capital of Aden.

Shaqra and Sheikh Salem were the scene of clashes between government troops and STC forces that raged through Tuesday and into the night, the sources said.

“Our forces in Abyan suffered a violent attack by the invading forces a few hours after the ceasefire came into effect,” Nazar Haitham, STC spokesman, said.

“It is an irresponsible act of the government, which says it is bound by the ceasefire but does not respect it on the ground,” he said.

The Yemeni government has not made any statement on the accounts of clashes.

Earlier this week, well-informed political sources told The Arab Weekly that ceasefire efforts had been rejected by influential military and political leaders in the Yemeni government belonging to what has become known as the “Qatari camp.”

Military sources, who asked not to be named, also told The Arab Weekly that government forces suffered heavy losses as a result of their attempt to achieve a quick victory in Abyan, Tuesday, in response to the STC forces’ success in taking control of the remote island of Socotra in the Gulf of Aden earlier this week.

The latest violent confrontations took place in the areas of Sheikh Salem and Al-Tareya, where a military race of attrition has been taking place.

A collapse of the ceasefire would again complicate efforts by the Saudi-led coalition to repel the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The STC and the government are technically allies in the fight against the Huuthi rebels, but the rift between them represents a damaging “war within a war” in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country.

The STC declared self-rule on April 26, expressing frustration with Islamists’ manoeuvres to serve a Qatari-funded agenda and accusing the government of failing to carry out its duties.

The STC has made a series of military gains, the latest on Saturday when it seized control of the island of Socotra off the southern coast of Aden — located near strategic shipping lanes and famed for its biodiversity.

The STC and the government are due to hold further talks in Saudi Arabia to discuss the truce, coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said on Monday.

 

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