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Yemen

Saudi Arabia rejects south Yemen declaration of independence

Aidarous al-Zoubeidi, head of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) on 6 January, 2020 in Aden.
Aidarous al-Zoubeidi, head of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) on 6 January, 2020 in Aden. Saleh Al-OBEIDI / AFP

Saudi Arabia has rejected a declaration of self-rule in south Yemen, a day after the Southern Traditional Council (STC) said it would break away from the rest of the country.

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The announcements have complicated the tense situation, with Saudi Arabia leading a coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the north of the country, including Sanaa, the capital.

“We in [Saudi Arabia] and UAE strongly believe that the internationally-backed Riyadh agreement has guaranteed an opportunity for the brotherly Yemeni people to live in peace,” said Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi state minister for foreign affairs on social media.

“We reject any hostilities that will jeopardise the safety and stability of Yemen,” he added.

Although separatists have called for the south of the country to be independent as it once was, Saudi Arabia was able to calm the situation by putting together a power-sharing deal last November.

“The Riyadh Agreement provides for the participation of the STC in consultations on the final political solution to the end of the conflict in Yemen and serving the interests of Yemenis nationwide,” said UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths in a statement.

But this new declaration of independence has the possibility to foment a war within a war in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

Deadly flooding

In addition to the political and humanitarian crisis, the port city of Aden, now the STC’s "capital" of their self-declared country, was hit by flash floods this month, killing 21 and leaving thousands homeless.

The UN says that more than 100,000 people have been affected across the country by the floods caused by torrential rains, damaging infrastructure and contaminating the water supply.

“Countless families have lost everything,” said UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande, “which comes on top of the pre-famine last year, which came on top of the worst cholera outbreak in modern history.”

Covid-19

Yemen recorded its first Covid-19 case earlier this month, which could be yet another destabilising factor in the country.

“The latest turn of events is disappointing, especially as the city of Aden and other areas in the south have yet to recover from flooding and are facing the risk of Covid-19,” said Griffiths.

 

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