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Peace deal between Yemeni government and separatists, explained

  • 6 Nov 2019

Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the UAE-supported Southern Transition Council have reached a deal to fight against the Houthis.

Representatives of Yemen's government and southern separatists sign a Saudi-brokered deal to end a power struggle in the southern port of Aden , as Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (L), Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (C) and Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi (R) celebrate in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 5, 2019. ( Reuters )

Hosted by Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, the peace deal between the Yemeni government and the seperatist Southern Transition Council (STC) charted out a power sharing module for the governing cabinet, which was described by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a crucial step that will "open a new period of stability in Yemen". 

The deal was signed by Yemen’s Deputy Prime Minister Salem al Khanbashi and Nasser al Khabaji, who represented the United Arab Emirates-backed STC. Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed witnessed the signing. 

According to the agreement, one half of the Yemeni cabinet will be reserved for STC members. It also calls for the formation of new cabinet within 30 days. If the deal holds for the long term, the agreement says the Houthis will be included as stakeholders in order to iron out the final political solution for the country. 

The deal also includes security issues in the southern cities of Yemen such as Aden Abyan and Shabwah within 15 days.

Both sides are committed to unifying their military forces under the direct supervision of the Saudi-led coalition's command within 60 days.

The full citizenship rights for all Yemeni people and stopping media campaigns against each other are other clauses of the agreement.

Who are the STC?

The Southern Transitional Council was formed in 2017 as a seperatist movement to gain independence for people living in the south of Yemen. It has 26 members, including five governors from the southern cities plus two former ministers.

The milestone of the movement was the firing of Aden Governor Aidarus al Zoubaidi by President Hadi over allegation of disloyalty. Hadi accused Zoubaidi for working for the independence of South Yemen. Following Zoubaidi's ousting, mass demonstrations were held in Aden against Hadi’s decision.

A month later, the STC was formed and it published a paper named Aden Historic Declaration, seeking legitimate rights for the people living in the region.

Their resistance supported by the Emiratis and Saudis in order to stop the expansion of Houthis and fighting against terrorism in the region. 

The statement also emphasised the UAE’s and Saudi’s support for the southern people self determination and sovereignty rights.

Where does STC demand for independence come from?

South Yemen was formed in 1967, after gaining independence from Britain, and it was renamed as the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen in 1970.

It was the only Marxist and Leninist State in the Middle East and supported by Soviet Union.

Yemen, which used to be split into North and South Yemen, united as the Cold War was coming to an end in 1990. This ushered in a new era for Yemenis. Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had already ruled North Yemen—which was mostly populated by the Houtis—for 12 years between 1978 and 1990, became the new president of the united country.

In 2007, the southern Yemenis formed the al Hirak al Janoubi movement to demand for equality and changing relations between north and south in terms of a united Yemen.

However, Hirak was repressed by Saleh government, and started working for independence again.

UAE support for STC

The STC, which is strongly backed by UAE, has accused the Muslim Brotherhood-aligned party Al Islah of helping the Houthis.

The UAE political agenda designates the Muslim Brotherhood as the main enemy in the Middle East.

While Saudi Arabia has worked tirelessly to fight the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East in Yemen, it has aligned itself with Al Islah, straining its relationship with the UAE, which has an even more hardline position against the group.

The Emiratis have trained and armed thousands of militias, especially the Giants, the Security Belt and Elite Forces, mostly in southern provinces and western coastal areas, as part of the forces battling the Houthis, who control most urban areas including the capital Sanaa and the main port of Hudaida.

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