Aden airport feud between UAE allies and Saudi-trained forces leaves Aden on edge

The Southern Transitional Council (STC) rejected on Friday a directive by the commander of the Saudi-led coalition to hand over control of Aden International Airport to Yemeni troops that had recently been trained in Saudi Arabia. In another setback to the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, the Emirati-backed STC reinforced its fighters surrounding the airport, further raising tensions between local forces, Al-Masdar Online’s correspondent in Aden reported.

The Yemeni government troops recently underwent training in Saudi Arabia to monitor and protect vital state infrastructure, and were intended to secure the airport as part of the implementation process of the Riyadh Agreement. On Friday, these forces travelled with Saudi officers from the coalition headquarters in Aden to the airport, in order to be handed over control. However, the STC forces controlling the airport, in partnership with Aden’s chief of security, refused to relinquish control and deployed their fighters around the perimeter of the airport.

The newly trained forces returned to the coalition camp in Al-Buraiqa area of Aden, while loyalists of the STC established dozens of new checkpoints and positioned armored vehicles throughout Khormaksar district, where the airport is located. Meanwhile, an Emirati newspaper accused the Saudi-led coalition of mishandling the Yemeni file and questioned whether Saudi Arabia still able to sponsor the agreement and prevent its collapse.

“The confusion of the Arab coalition in dealing with the Yemeni file has extended to its way of managing the difficult and complex relationship between the Southern Transitional Council and the government of Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi, whose decisions are strongly controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood wing within it,” reads the UAE-funded Al-Arab newspaper. “This confusion was reflected in the departure of the coalition from its neutrality which is necessary to continue to implement the Riyadh Agreement and protect it from the collapse that threatens it more than ever before.”

Pro-STC activist Salah Bin Laghbar claimed the coalition of preparing a plan for a settlement between the Houthis and the Muslim Brotherhood, and in appointing two southern security commanders of the airport and Aden port with northern deputies, one of them belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and the other being a Houthi, provided no evedince. 

The Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al-Jaber, denied this information in a tweet, calling it untrue and saying the “coalition led by the Kingdom that restored Aden and the rest of the governorates and is working to secure it with its loyal sons.” Al-Jaber added, “we do not have troops or weapons in our camps to use against the sons of Aden, but to protect them, to achieve security and stability, to fight terrorism and to support development.” The Saudi ambassador said that Aden airport remains safe and operational, with international flights continuing, and that Saudi Arabia’s support to rehabilitate the airport remains ongoing.  



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