A prominent Yemeni southern separatist group has declared its withdrawal from Saudi-brokered negotiations to shore up the military coalition against the country’s Houthi rebels.
Reuters first reported on Monday, January 1 that a senior member of Yemen’s Southern Transitional Council, Selim al-Awlaqi, announced the group would quit the committees in response to attacks in Shabwa province which the STC blamed on the Islah (reform) movement, which also backs Yemen’s government.
The talks were aimed at repairing the Saudi-led alliance and led to a November agreement entailing the STC’s inclusion in a future national cabinet under the Yemeni government.
The move threatens to further weaken the pro-government coalition as the Houthi rebels solidify their control of the country’s north and the government’s main foreign backer, Saudi Arabia, is seeking a way out of the conflict.
The STC, which is primarily supported by the United Arab Emirates, has been an integral part of the Saudi-led military coalition supporting the government of Yemen’s president-in-exile Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi against the Houthi movement that has seized control of most of the country’s north since civil war broke out in 2015.
The group has long demanded inclusion in any future peace talks after providing military support for Hadi’s government.
STC Southern Belt fighters seized control of the de facto capital, Aden, from government loyalists in August in response to a deadly Houthi missile attack on an STC base which the group blamed on Islah. Both the STC and the UAE strongly oppose the Islah movement.
The takeover opened a long-simmering fissure in the Saudi-led alliance, pushing Riyadh to bring the two sides to the table in November.
Spokespeople for the STC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.