After meeting with STC and national army forces, the two sides dug in their heels in Awhar district
Saudi military delegation visits Abyan in shaky start to Riyadh agreement implementation
A Saudi delegation of military officers tasked with implementing the military and security annex of the Riyadh agreement have arrived in Abyan governorate, a Yemeni defense ministry official told Almasdar Online.
A source in the ministry of defence told Almasdar Online that the delegation arrived in Abyan’s capital Zanjibar, where forces loyal to the Southern Transitional Council (STC) are stationed, before visiting the coastal town of Shaqra, east of Zinjibar, where government forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi are based.
The Saudi military delegation is in Abyan to supervise the withdrawal of both government and STC forces to their pre-August positions. Secessionist STC fighters wrested control of the interim capital Aden from Hadi’s forces in August, before overtaking Abyan and much of Shabwa governorate. Army reinforcements from Marib pushed back STC advances, eventually retaking much of Shabwa and parts of Abyan.
The Saudi delegation held separate meetings with STC and government officials to discuss implementation of the troop withdrawal, the source said. But no troop movements have been reported in the hours after the departure of the Saudi officials.
The Riyadh agreement, signed on Nov. 5, gave a 15 day deadline for the appointment of a governor and director of security in the interim capital Aden, the withdrawal of both STC and government forces to their pre-August positions, and the relinquishment of heavy and medium weapons. None of the goals have been accomplished.
Bumpy roads ahead for the agreement
In addition to the lack of concessions on territorial control, there has been little progress on troop de-escalation. Local sources, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Almasdar Online that tribesmen in the city of Ahwar, in southeastern Abyan, warned the 1st Presidential Protection Brigade (PPB) about potential ambushes by STC forces on the road to Aden.
The defense ministry official told Almasdar Online that a tribal mediation team led by prominent figures in Ahwar district had recently intervened to stop the growing tension between STC and PPB forces.
Sources added that the STC commander in the area, Brig. Gen. Abdullah Al-Houtari, instructed both his forces and their allies to confront and prevent any government forces from passing from Ahwar to Shaqra until reaching an agreement with the Saudi-led coalition supervision team.
Meanwhile to the north, a source in the Yemeni military told Almasdar Online that PPB forces had arrived in Ataq, the capital of Shabwa governorate on their way to Aden. The source said that about 50 military vehicles belonging to the PPB stopped in Ataq for a few hours before continuing to Abyan.
The source stated that this batch of troops will move to Aden to be stationed in the presidential palace in Ma’ashiq, according to the military annex of the Riyadh agreement.