Coalition: Riyadh Agreement in Yemen makes progress after 'tireless efforts'

Military forces in south Yemen have nearly completed trust-building redeployments, commanders say

TOPSHOT - Fighters loyal to Yemen's separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) travel in a convoy in Yemen's southern Abyan province, on December 13, 2020, as part of a withdrawal according to a power sharing agreement brokered in the Saudi capital Riyadh days earlier. Yemen's internationally recognised government and southern separatists are expected to form a cabinet within the week according to Saudi officials, kicking off the implementation of a Riyadh-sponsored power sharing agreement. The agreement struck late last year was designed to mend a rift between the secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC) and the government, both technically allies in the war against Huthi rebels who have seized much of Yemen's north. / AFP / -

The military side of a major power-sharing agreement between the Yemeni government and Southern Transitional Council was finalised on Monday, a source in the coalition mission overseeing the troop withdrawal told The National.

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As a result of the tireless efforts which have been exerted by our brothers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the agreement is happening

On Tuesday, forces began to move heavy weapons as part of the deal, called the Riyadh Agreement because it was brokered by Saudi Arabia last year after clashes between the key Yemeni allies.

“Both parties have been seriously engaged in the implementation of the military section of the agreement. Both have been showing discipline and commitment so far,” the coalition official said.

Capt Mohammed Al Naqeeb, spokesman for STC forces, praised the role of Saudi Arabia to end the conflict in the liberated provinces. He also confirmed that the troop redeployment was progressing quickly.

"As a result of the tireless efforts which have been exerted by our brothers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the process of implementing the military part of the Riyadh Agreement is happening in leaps and bounds," Capt Al Naqeeb told The National.

“The majority of our forces have withdrawn from Aden and Abyan, according to the redeployment plans from the Central Command of the Arab Coalition,” Capt Al Naqeeb said.

Troops affiliated with the Yemeni government withdrew on Saturday and Sunday from Karn Al Kalasi in eastern Abyan, Southern Yemen, a pro-government officer in Abyan province told The National on Monday.

“Some of our troops have already left Abyan in the last couple of days based on directives of President [Abdrabu Mansur] Hadi and in line with the Riyadh Agreement,” the unidentified officer said.

“On Saturday, the 39th brigade left Shouqra and on Sunday brigades including the 30th and the 21st mechanised brigades left from Abyan to Shabwa. Other troops will leave Abyan today,” the officer said.

In August 2019, the STC took over Aden and clashed with government forces after a rift sparked by a number of security incidents in which attacks by Al Qaeda killed key officials from the southern forces. The STC blamed Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Al Islah party members of the government for dealing with or turning a blind eye to Al Qaeda operatives and allowing the attacks to take place.

As a result, the STC – whose fighters make up a sizeable portion of the pro-government forces fighting the Houthi rebels – declared secession for southern Yemen.

In November 2019, Saudi Arabia pressed for de-escalation and brokered the Ryadh Agreement to form a new Cabinet with greater STC representation, appointing Ahmed Lamlas as governor of Aden with the approval of the STC and agreeing on troop withdrawals from flash sites as well as Saudi monitors to oversee the military de-escalation.

Muslim Brotherhood militia remain a threat

In Shabwa province, south-east Yemen, a militia loyal to Al Islah party targeted a military base used by Shabwa Elite Forces in the coastal area of Balhaf, eastern Shabwa on Monday morning, residents of the area told The National. The Shabwa Elite Forces are a pro-southern Yemeni brigade backed by elements of the Saudi-led international coalition that mainly battled Al Qaeda cells.

"Pro-Islah militia fired two mortars into a camp affiliated with the elite forces of Shabwa in the Balhaf area. One of the mortars fell into the sea and the other fell near a checkpoint near the gate of the base," a resident said.

The incident came after news that the elite forces of Shabwa are preparing to return to their former bases in the province within days, in line with the military part of the Riyadh Agreement.

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