Yemenis optimistic as sides accept Saudi plan to implement Riyadh Agreement

AL-MUKALLA – (WARSOOR) – Yemenis on Wednesday expressed cautious optimism after the government and separatists accepted a Saudi-brokered proposal to accelerate the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement.

Leading figures also praised the Kingdom for its pivotal role in sponsoring and mediating tough talks between the two sides that had led to the formation of a new government and the ending of hostilities in southern Yemen.

In a tweet, Abdulmalik Al-Mekhlafi, Yemen’s former deputy prime minister and an adviser to the country’s president, described the news as representing the start of a “new phase” in bringing peace to the war-torn nation.

Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi issued presidential decrees mandating incumbent Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed to form a new government and for the appointment of a new governor and security director for Aden province.

The separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) reciprocated by abandoning its controversial self-rule declaration and pledging its adherence to the terms of the new proposal, including allowing the new government to resume duties from Aden.

The Yemeni government said it would comply with the Riyadh Agreement and its related implementation mechanism, including halting military operations in Abyan.

“The government appreciates the efforts of brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and their support for the implementation of the agreement that aims at establishing security and stability, preserving the unity of Yemen, and pushing the wheel of development,” said government spokesperson Rajeh Badi in a brief statement carried by the official Saba news agency.

Ali Al-Katheri, a senior STC member who took part in the discussions in Riyadh, told Arab News that the Kingdom’s diplomatic efforts over recent months had paved the way for the success of talks. He said the agreement would help unify military efforts against the Iranian-backed Houthis and return stability to Aden and other southern provinces.

“We look forward to more efforts by brothers in the Kingdom and the UAE to move toward achieving the urgent implementation of the provisions of the Riyadh Agreement and uniting the efforts of all parties in confronting the Houthi militia and terrorist groups,” Al-Katheri added.

Since early 2018, Aden, the interim capital of Yemen, has been the scene of sporadic battles between the two sides that have damaged the city’s infrastructure and paralyzed government bodies.

Aden residents were hopeful that implementation of the Riyadh Agreement would lead to a revival of government institutions, the paying of salaries, and the restoration of public services such as electricity.

“People have been greatly affected, first by the war with the Houthis, and later by the war between the government and the STC,” Fatehi Ben Lazerq, editor of popular Yemeni news site Aden Al-Ghad, told Arab News.

“There is no option other than a political settlement that would bring back the situation to normal. The situation was not that great before the beginning of hostilities between the government and STC, but things got worse after the war between them,” Ben Lazerq said.

When the separatists announced self-rule in April and expelled the government from Aden and other southern provinces, the government mounted a military offensive in Abyan aimed at recapturing Aden. Dozens of people were killed in heavy fighting that blocked the main road linking Abyan with other provinces and damaged power and water lines.

Shouqra and neighboring Sheikh Salem became the main battlegrounds, and residents there on Wednesday expressed delight over the Saudi-brokered peace proposal.

“The first thing they should do is withdraw military forces from Shouqra and fix electricity and water supplies,” said Hassan Salem, a resident of Shouqra. He added that some areas had been without electricity and water since the beginning of the government’s military offensive in May. “I was very happy when I heard the news about the agreement.”

Under the proposal, Yemeni government forces and separatists will pull out of contested areas in Abyan and move military units and equipment from Aden.