Middle East

Saudi Coalition Announces Ceasefire With Southern Separatists

The Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen announced Monday a ceasefire between the internationally recognized government and southern separatists who have declared self-rule after a series of military gains.

Coalition spokesman Turki Al-Maliki said the rival groups would hold fresh talks in Saudi Arabia to discuss the truce.

If the peace gesture holds, it would be a boon for the coalition and the Yemeni government in their battle against Iran-backed Houthi rebels who hold much of the north, in a conflict that has wracked the country for five years.

The announcement came after the separatists took control of the island of Socotra, situated near strategic shipping lanes and famed for its biodiversity, after ejecting government forces on the weekend.

Houthi fighters in Yemen
Houthi rebel fighters during a gathering aimed at mobilizing more fighters in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, March 16, 2019. Image: Hani Al-Ansi/dpa

“The Coalition welcomes the response of the legitimate government of Yemen and the Southern Transitional Council for its request of a comprehensive ceasefire, de-escalation, and a meeting to be convened in the kingdom,” Maliki said in a statement carried on state media.

He said the process would advance the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, a power-sharing deal for the south which was struck late last year but which quickly became defunct.

The southern separatists and the government are technically allies in the fight against the Houthi rebels, but the rift between them represents a damaging “war within a war” in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country.

Since 2015, tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

The south was an independent country before unification in 1990, and separatist sentiment remains strong.

The Southern Transitional Council declared self-rule on April 26, accusing the government of failing to carry out its duties.

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