Exclusive: The Saudis are seeking new amendments in the Riyadh Agreement
Saudi Arabia is readying a new operational mechanism to implement the Riyadh Agreement, following the declaration by the Southern Transitional Council (STC) of self-administration in southern governorates and further escalation between the pro-secession group the government.
The new mechanism will not make major amendments to the agreement, but rather is aimed at addressing the obstacles that previously prevented its implementation, according to a military and political source engaged in consultations over the agreement, who spoke to Almasdar Online on condition of anonymity.
The military source, who is a Yemeni member of the committee to implement the Riyadh Agreement, said that what prevented the implementation of the agreement previously was the sequencing of implementing its different annexes. President Hadi has insisted that the military and security annexes in the agreement be implemented ahead of the political annex. For its part, the STC wants to appoint a governor and security director for Aden and form a new cabinet while still maintaining its existing control over the Aden, Lahj, Al-Dhale and parts of Abyan governorates.
“The mechanism that the Saudi side is working on is aimed at merging the two sides of the military and political agreement to be implemented simultaneously,” the military source explained to Almasdar Online.
The Riyadh Agreement, signed by the Yemeni government and the STC on Nov. 5, came after months of Saudi-led negotiations that followed deadly fighting in Aden and surrounding governorates between Yemeni government forces and UAE-backed forces supporting the STC. Apart from the prime minister’s brief return to Aden, virtually all reforms outlined in the agreement have yet to be implemented, including the reshuffling of the cabinet that balanaces north-south representation and reorganizing armed groups under a unified Ministry of Defense structure.
The Yemeni government accuses the STC of hindering the implementation of the agreement and seeking to complete the coup carried out in Aden in August 2019, and is calling on Saudi Arabia to force the STC to comply. Likewise, the STC accuses the government of blocking implementation and issued a statement on Friday calling on the coalition to implement the agreement according to its terms.
On April 25, STC President Aidarous Al-Zubaidi issued a statement declaring the separatist body’s “self-administration" of southern governorates. Following widespread condemnation of the declaration by Yemeni political parties and the government, the Saudi-led coalition issued a joint statement with the UAE calling for a return to the situation before the STC’s announcement.
After the STC’s declaration, Gen. Ahmed Bin Buraik, acting head of the council, issued several resolutions, including to cease the government’s control of the Central Bank, open an account with the Yemeni National Bank and divert all public revenues in the south to the STC.
Mansour Saleh, deputy head of the STC's media department, told Al-Jazeera on Saturday that the council had not and would not back down from the step toward self-administration.
Aden is experiencing a deteriorating humanitarian crisis after severe flooding in April killed sevearl people and resulted in extensive destruction and damage to property. On Saturday, Yemen’s Supreme National Emergency Committee for Coronavirus confirmed two more cases in Aden, bringing the total in the city to seven and making it the governorate with the most cases. The sources said the deteriorated humanitarian situation in Aden should play a role in both parties accepting to comply with the new Riyadh Agreement mechanism.
Editing by Alkhatab Alrawhani