Yemen PM Maeen Saeed leads government's return to Aden

Return follows power-sharing deal with southern forces signed in Riyadh this month

Yemen's Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed arrives in Aden on November 18, 2019. Yemen's prime minister returned to the southern city of Aden under a peace deal with southern separatists who drove the government out of its provisional capital in August. / AFP / Saleh Al-OBEIDI
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Yemen's government returned to Aden on Monday in a significant step towards implementing a power-sharing deal with the Southern Transitional Council.

Prime Minister Maeen Saeed arrived at Aden airport with Cabinet members including his deputy, Salem Al Khanbashi, and the ministers of finance, higher education, electricity and energy, and endowments. 
The governor of the central bank and junior officials also returned with the prime minister, a government official told The National.

“The prime minister and his team will start working from the government seat in the Presidential Palace in the Masheeq area in Aden," the official said.

The government is in Aden for the first time since August, when forces allied to the STC seized the port city and other southern areas after clashes with government troops.

“The government’s priorities in the next stage are to normalise the situation in Aden first and then consolidate state institutions on the ground as a guarantor of stability,” Mr Saeed said at the airport.

The government official said the ministers would start work on paying employee salaries and restoring basic services.

President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi and STC leader Gen Aidarous Al Zoubaidi signed the agreement in Riyadh on November 5 to settle differences between the two sides.

It paves the way for government and STC forces to resume their alliance against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels who seized the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, triggering Yemen's civil war.

The rebels on Monday seized two South Korean ships, a spokesman for government forces said.

"At 2am on Monday, the Houthi militia seized two South Korean ships, one carrying drilling equipment and its 28-person crew, which is formed of different nationalities, and a tanker carrying 500,000 barrels of oil and its crew," Col Wathah Al Dubaish told The National.

He said the ships were taken to the shores of Kamaran Island, at the southern end of the Red Sea in south-west Yemen, where they were forced to unload their cargo.

Col Al Dubaish said the Coalition forces informed the UN of the seizure on Tuesday morning, but so far no action had been taken.

“This is a serious escalation that proves that the Houthi rebels have no real desire to seriously engage in the peace process,” he said.

The UN has an observer mission in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, where it is trying to implement a limited ceasefire agreement reached during talks between the government and rebels in Sweden last December.

Foreign Minister Mohammed Al Hadrami condemned the seizures, saying they posed a serious threat to international navigation.

Mr Al Hadrami called for the immediate release of the boats, Yemen's official news agency Saba reported.