'Not appropriate time to address separatist issue' Filed on August 19, 2019 | Last updated on August 19, 2019 at 07.27 am
Not appropriate time to address separatist issue

(AFP file)

Yemen's deputy foreign minister, said his government is willing to address the 'Southern question' but only after the Houthis are defeated.

Any attempt to push for the division of Yemen in the south when the country is still fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the North is counter-productive and will not help anyone's cause, a senior Yemeni government official has said.

Speaking to Khaleej Times over phone, Mohammed Al Hadhrami, Yemen's deputy foreign minister, said his government is willing to address the 'Southern question' but only after the Houthis are defeated.

"We are not saying that we don't need to open the southern question again. It is an important issue. But to push the government now when it is with the coalition on the frontlines is not acceptable."

Hadhrami's comments came days after the Southern Separatists took control of the Yemen's capital Aden triggering a 'civil war within a civil war.'

The Southern Transitional Council (STC) known as the Southern Separatists are partners in the Saudi-led Arab coalition that is currently fighting the Houthis who ousted the UN-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in 2014.

The UAE-backed STC stormed the capital Aden last week and took control of key positions including the military camps, presidential palace, central bank and hospitals.

The 'coup' as the Yemeni government calls it, claimed 70 lives as four day of intense fighting raged between the pro-government forces and the STC fighters. According to experts, the Aden takeover has stoked the old division between the South and North Yemen - two separated countries that were reunited as one in 1990.

But Hadhrami said revisiting the old rivalries "will not benefit anyone - neither the Yemeni government nor the coalition except the Houthis."

"They (Southern Separatists) have to understand that it is a wrong way to do it. The international community is not going to accept a state within a state. They will not support if there is a civil war within a civil war."

According to the deputy foreign minister, the separatists have to change into a political party and "they can put whatever ideas and demands forward in a democratic platform. Then probably we can find a solution according to the national dialogue resolution."

Hadhrami said the Hadi government is working hard to provide people with basic amenities with little resources in hand.

On the question of Saudi-backed negotiations with the STC, Hadhrami said his government first wants the fighters to "completely withdraw from their positions in Aden."

"We will not go to Jeddah and legitimise what they did in Aden. We will not give up on the mandate President Hadi won in 2012 when he was elected. We need to first complete the task that we have begun."

Meanwhile, reports have confirmed that STC has withdrawn from Aden and has said it is open to negotiations.

"We thank Saudi Arabia for its earnest efforts to contain the crisis and invite the parties for talks in Jeddah," the Southern Transitional Council (STC) said in a statement.

"The meeting will be held as soon as necessary arrangements are completed."

Reuters reported that tens of thousands of Yemenis attended a rally in Aden on Thursday, asking the international community and the Western-backed Arab alliance to recognised southerners' contribution to the coalition and right to rule.

UAE and Saudi on the same page: Official

A UAE official who spoke on condition of anonymity said UAE and Saudi Arabia are jointly working together to discuss a political settlement.

"There is no daylight between the UAE and Saudi Arabia when it comes to Yemen. We are completely aligned and His Highness Mohamed Bin Zayed's visit to KSA is just the latest example of the constant and continuous dialogue and collaboration within the coalition".

The official said the UAE remains "deeply concerned over the situation in Aden, and the coalition's engagement on-the-ground is evolving with the aim of establishing conditions for stability, security and peace."

"The UAE and Saudi Arabia are completely aligned both on-the-ground and in our continued calls on all parties involved to come together to discuss a political settlement," said the official."

"We are clear that the future of Yemen can only be decided by the Yemeni people. The coalition is doing everything possible to provide Yemen with the ability to return to normality. Our priority is to empower legitimate government and the Yemeni people to move forward to decide and shape their peaceful future.

"Yemen's economy and infrastructure have been sustained by coalition investment and dedicated work on the ground. Those concerted efforts will continue - we are there for the long term."


Anjana Sankar

Anjana Sankar is a UAE-based journalist chasing global stories of conflict, migration and human rights. She has reported from the frontlines of the wars in Yemen and Syria and has extensively written on the refugee crisis in Bangladesh, Iraq and Europe. From interviewing Daesh militants to embedding with the UAE army in Yemen, and covering earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and elections, she has come out scathe-free from the most dangerous conflict zones of the world. Riding on over 14 years of experience, Anjana currently is an Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times and leads the reporting team. She often speaks about women empowerment on her Facebook page that has 40,000 plus followers.

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