Saudi coalition urges Yemen separatists to honor Riyadh deal

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FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2019 file photo, released by the Saudi Royal Palace, Yemeni Southern Transitional Council member and former Aden Governor Nasser al-Khabji, left, and Yemen's deputy Prime Minister Salem al-Khanbashi sign a power-sharing deal in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition mired in a yearslong war in Yemen has urged Emirati-backed separatists to honor terms of the Riyadh peace deal and share control of Aden with the countrys internationally recognized government. The statement comes after the separatists Southern Transitional Council again claimed sole control Sunday of Aden. (Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP)

DUBAI – A Saudi-led coalition mired in a yearslong war in Yemen on Monday urged Emirati-backed southern separatists to honor the terms of a Riyadh peace deal and share control of the port city of Aden with the country's internationally recognized government.

The statement by Saudi Arabia comes after the separatists’ Southern Transitional Council again claimed sole control on Sunday of Aden, a Red Sea port that serves as the seat of the internationally recognized government as Yemen's Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, hold the country's capital, Sanaa.

The council's decision adds yet more complexity to the grinding war in Yemen that has pushed the Arab world's poorest nation to the brink of famine and killed over 100,000 people.

The Saudi statement urged the council to return to the terms of the November 2019 Riyadh agreement, which ended earlier fighting between the separatists and the government forces — ostensible allies in the war against the Houthis — after the council seized control of Aden just a few months earlier.

That deal had called for both sides to remove heavy military equipment from Yemeni cities under their control and form a unity government that included equal representation. But that deal had yet to be implemented as the war continued, massive floods struck Aden and Yemen faces the threat of the coronavirus pandemic and the COVID-19 illness it causes.

In its statement, the Saudi-led coalition urged the council to honor the deal “to unite Yemeni ranks, restore state institutions and combat the scourge of terrorism.”

The deal “entails forming a competent government" that would operate out of Aden “to tackle economic and developmental challenges, in light of natural disasters such as floods, fears of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and work to provide services to the brotherly people of Yemen.”

The statement did not say what Saudi Arabia would do if the council refused. The kingdom, itself focused on the coronavirus outbreak, declared a unilateral cease-fire with the Houthis in April that was later extended through the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. But fighting has continued, with each side blaming the other for violations.