Yemen’s STC chief warns against collapse of power-sharing deal

ADEN: The leader of Yemen’s southern separatists has warned against the looming collapse of a power-sharing deal, saying the region is menaced by the twin threats of economic catastrophe and militant attacks.
The agreement to resolve a battle for control in the south, which was signed in Riyadh last November, was hailed as a step towards ending the wider conflict in Yemen that pits the government against Ansar Allah fighters.
However, analysts have said it is effectively defunct, having failed to meet deadlines for key measures including the formation of a new cabinet with equal representation for southerners, and the reorganisation of military forces.
In an interview with AFP, Aidarous al Zoubeidi, who heads the secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC), said he was committed to the deal “under the leadership of Saudi Arabia” which leads a military coalition against the Ansar Allah.
Zoubeidi said the agreement, which observers had welcomed as preventing the complete break-up of Yemen, united the south against the Ansar Allah and recognised the STC as a legitimate party.
“We consider the Riyadh Agreement an important political step, because we gained regional and international recognition,” he said as he sat behind his desk in the main southern city of Aden in front of the flag of the formerly independent south.
In August, deadly clashes broke out between the government and STC forces who seized control of Aden, ousting unionist forces who had set up base there when President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled the Ansar Allah-held capital Sanaa in February 2015.
While the government and the STC are technically allies in the long war against the Ansar Allah, the secessionists believe the south should be an independent state — as it was before unification in 1990.
However, Zoubeidi said they were willing to set aside that goal as the allies focused on the fight against the Ansar Allah fighters, which had threatened to be derailed by the power struggle in the south.
“We do not aspire during this phase for independence, we aspire for partnership… and the right to choose our own fate through democracy,” he said.
The troubled rollout of the deal comes amid what Zoubeidi said was a dire situation in the south of Yemen — a country which the grinding conflict has pushed to the brink of famine.
“There is a shortage of food products, the warehouses are empty in the south and there are only reserves to cover the needs of the people for the next 10 days,” he said.
“People are also suffering from not getting their salaries,” he said, referring to a chronic lack of funds to pay public sector employees.