Coalition confirms STC withdrawal from Yemen government positions in Aden

Southern group had seized government buildings and bases during clashes in early August

A member of Yemen's southern separatist holds his weapon with a picture of Muneer al-Yafee during a funeral of Brigadier General Muneer al-Yafee and his comrades killed in a Houthi missile attack, in Aden, Yemen, August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Fawaz Salman     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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The Southern Transitional Council has begun withdrawing from positions in Aden that it seized from the Yemen government, the Saudi-led Arab coalition said on Saturday.

Yemeni Information Minister Muammar Al Iryani said supporters of the STC had pulled out of the government headquarters, the supreme court, the central bank, the justice department and cabinet offices as well as Aden's main hospital.

Mr Iryani said preparations were also underway for a pull out of fighters from the interior ministry and the Aden oil refinery.

STC spokesman Nazar Anwar told The National that the group had agreed to withdraw from these positions as well as the judiciary headquarters.

“We are still working together with the Coalition committee to reach a perfect deal to manage the situation in Aden completely,” Mr Anwar said.

Reports indicated that coalition troops had moved in around positions vacated by the STC’s military wing, the Security Belt Forces.

The coalition said in a statement Saturday that the positions occupied in Aden would be handed over to the government under coalition supervision.

The coalition also called on all forces "to unite in order to foil Iran's destructive plan in Yemen" and prevent attacks by extremist factions such as Al Qaeda and ISIS.

The withdrawal paves the way for Saudi-brokered reconciliation talks between the two sides after days of clashes in the southern port city where the government has been based following the seizure of the capital, Sanaa, by Houthi rebels in 2015.

Supported and trained by the coalition, government and STC forces have been jointly fighting the rebels who still control Sanaa and large areas in the north and west Yemen.

A coalition statement on Saturday praised the transitional council for observing calls for a ceasefire from Saudi Arabia and the UAE and for “beginning today to withdraw its troops and combat elements to their previous positions before recent events, and hand over Yemeni government headquarters under the supervision of the coalition”.

The coalition also praised the government for its response to "the call for restraint during the crisis, to prioritise of the interests of the Yemeni people and preserve of the gains of the coalition supporting legitimacy in Yemen to restore the state and its institutions”.

On the ground in Aden, life has largely returned to normal with shops opening and beaches being busy.

The internationally recognised government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi had said it was willing to join reconciliation, talks but only after the STC ceded control of the positions its forces seized during the fighting in Aden earlier this month.

The clashes broke out after the STC accused the Al Islah party, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, of being complicit in a Houthi missile attack that killed a prominent military commander and dozens of other officers at a military camp in Aden on August 1.

The STC is a grouping of southern political leaders who say they support President Hadi but also advocate for the restoration of the state of South Yemen that existed before the unification of the country in 1990.