Southern Yemen leader wants place at peace talks

Aidarus Al Zoubadi says the UAE’s presence ensures Yemen isn’t overrun by terrorists

 A Yemeni child stands in front of historic buildings in the Old City of Sana'a, Yemen. EPA
 A Yemeni child stands in front of historic buildings in the Old City of Sana'a, Yemen. EPA

The south of Yemen should be represented in peace talks with the government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, a southern leader told British parliamentarians.

Aidarus Al Zoubaidi, the president of Southern Transitional Council, said the region's distinct political identity stretched back to 1990s when it united with North Yemen.

Mr Al Zoubaidi said the dreams of southern Yemen in the 1990s of taking part in a state built on democracy, human rights and equality were ruined by a “systematic policy to persecute, punish and marginalise the south" by former ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saleh sided with the Houthi rebels when they overran the capital Sanaa in 2014, forcing the internationally recognised government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi to flee. Saleh was killed by the rebels when the alliance broke.

“We want a political deal that ends this brutal war and it is not too much to ask to be part of a process that determines the future," said Mr Al Zoubaidi, a former governor of Aden.

He described the December 2018 Stockholm Agreement between Yemen and Houthi rebels as important.

The pact was brokered by UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths and agreed to by the government and the Houthi-led negotiators.

Mr Al Zoubaidi has maintained that the STC had a mandate from the southern people to work towards a new constitutional settlement in Yemen. He was fired from the governor's role by Mr Hadi in 2017 for his forthright views.

Mr Al Zoubadi said he wanted a federal system that allowed the region's provinces to have a greater say in how they were run.

He said he had close links with the UAE and that its role during the civil war had been very constructive.

Mr Al Zoubaidi said that if it were not for the Saudi-led Arab Coalition's intervention in Yemen, the south would have been overrun by Al Qaeda and ISIS.

When he began his role as Aden’s governor in 2015, he said the province “was on the brink of being overtaken by Al Qaeda".

“As we stand, the alternative for the UAE is for Al Qaeda and ISIS to take over," he said. "Without the input from the UAE we would have serious difficulties and problems."

Updated: March 6, 2019 03:30 PM


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