Yemen deal to end Aden standoff likely this week

DUBAI: Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and southern separatists are expected on Thursday to announce a deal to end a power struggle in the southern port of Aden that fractured an Arab coalition battling the Ansar Allah group, officials said.
The separatist Southern Transition Council is nominally allied to the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, but the two sides fell out in August, with the separatists seizing control of Aden.
Saudi Arabia has hosted indirect talks between them to rebuild the coalition fighting against the Ansar Allah movement that expelled Hadi’s government from the capital Sanaa five years ago.
Fighting between pro-Hadi forces and the separatists had opened a new front in the multi-faceted war and complicated United Nations peace efforts.
Riyadh has been trying to refocus the coalition on fighting the Ansar Allah on its border. The Ansar Allah fighters have repeatedly launched missiles and drone strikes against Saudi cities during the conflict.
Two officials in Hadi’s government said the pact to end the Aden standoff would be signed in Riyadh on Thursday.
STC leader Aidarous al Zubaidi, who has been involved in the month-long talks in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, headed to Riyadh on Wednesday, according to a post on his Twitter account.
The deal calls for a government reshuffle to include STC, which seeks self-rule in the south, and the restructuring of armed forces under Saudi supervision, they said.
Saudi forces took control of Aden after Emirati troops withdrew last week. The move seemingly paved the way for ending the crisis that had exposed differences between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi over how to proceed in the wider war that has been in military stalemate for years.
The UAE already scaled down its presence in Yemen in June as Western pressure mounted to end the conflict that has pushed millions to the brink of famine. But Abu Dhabi retains influence through thousands of Yemeni troops it armed and trained.
Hadi’s government has asked the UAE to stop supporting STC. Abu Dhabi criticised Hadi’s government as ineffective and distrusts militants with whom he is allied.
Resolving the power struggle in the south and easing Ansar Allah-Saudi tensions would aid UN efforts to restart peace talks to end the war that has killed tens of thousands.
Ansar Allah fighters last month offered to stop missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia if the coalition ended air strikes on Yemen. Riyadh has said it views the offer “positively”.
 — Reuters