Mutual concessions pave the way for STC, Yemen government implementing Riyadh Agreement

Report\ Saleh Baidhani


Analysts expect an increase in political, media, and possibly military activity by what has become known as the Doha current in the Yemeni “legitimacy” camp working against the agreement.

Well-informed Yemeni sources told The Arab Weekly that the leadership of the Arab coalition to support legitimacy in Yemen has exerted pressure on the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) to make mutual concessions in order to accelerate the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement.

They said that the coalition leadership was able to persuade the Yemeni presidency to make concessions regarding candidates for ministerial portfolios and to provide consensual names, in exchange for the STC’s consent to start implementing the first phase of the military and security component before implementing the political aspect and announcing the government, a step that was previously rejected by the STC.

The Arab Weekly sources confirmed that the coalition provided guarantees to the two parties to the Riyadh agreement, that it will closely supervise each party’s fulfillment of its obligations in the agreement, and take a firm stance towards any party that tries to overthrow the agreement or evade its entitlements.

They expected that the Arab coalition would succeed in overcoming the obstacle of the order in implementing the provisions of the Riyadh Agreement by supervising a simultaneous withdrawal of forces from the front lines at Shagra and its surroundings, leading to the announcement of the new government, but the sources suggested at that time that there would be an increase in political, media, and possibly military activity by what has become known as the Doha current in the Yemeni “legitimacy” camp, which vehemently rejects the Riyadh Agreement and pushes for a scenario of comprehensive confrontation between the Yemeni government and the Transitional Council.

These sources revealed that a consensus has finally been reached on the list of candidates to fill the ministerial portfolios in the government emanating from the Riyadh Agreement, which witnessed in recent days a state of extreme disparity due to some parties nominating controversial figures as candidates for the four sovereign ministries (defence, interior, foreign affairs, and finance). The matter was met, according to the sources, with the refusal of the STC, and the coalition’s reservations about some of those affiliated with the Qatari current, who had a history of anti-coalition statements.

The Arab coalition in Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia, announced the completion of the necessary arrangements to implement the mechanism to accelerate the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, signed between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council in November 2019.

An official source in the coalition said in a press statement published by the Saudi Press Agency, on Thursday evening, that it was agreed to form the government headed by Moeen Abdulmalik and consisting of 24 ministers divided equally between the north and the south with the participation of the Southern Transitional Council and other Yemeni political components, and that an agreement was reached, still according to the source, on announcing this government as soon as the implementation of the military component of the Riyadh Agreement is completed within a week.

The statement also indicated that the obstacle of the differences between the government and the STC over the order of implementation of the military and political components of the agreement has been overcome by agreeing to complete the military and security plans necessary for the implementation of the military and security component.

The source added that the Joint Forces Command of the coalition will, through its military observers on the ground, starting from Thursday, supervise the disengagement of the two camps’ military forces in Abyan Governorate (east of Aden) and move them to other fronts, as well as from the capital Aden to outside the city, and that it will continue to back up the security units in carrying out their core tasks of maintaining security and stability and fighting terrorist organisations.

Local sources in Abyan Governorate confirmed to The Arab Weekly the arrival of forces and armoured vehicles of the Arab coalition to the headquarters of the Military Committee in Shagra area to oversee the withdrawal of government forces to Shabwa governorate, and the return of the forces of the Southern Transitional Council to the city of Aden, before starting the next phase, which includes withdrawing the military forces from Aden and moving them to battle fronts with the Houthis, and the deployment of Security Belt forces to maintain security in the temporary capital.

The spokesman for the Southern Transitional Council, Nizar Haitham, commented on Twitter the statement of the coalition, saying, “For the sake of peace, let us postpone the differences, and for the sake of stopping the bloodshed, we will concede, reconcile and converge.”

In a statement to The Arab Weekly, the deputy head of the STC’s media department, Mansour Saleh, said, “The council considers the serious direct implementation of the agreement a great achievement that enhances the security situation and completes the implementation of what was agreed upon in Riyadh under Saudi auspices.”

Observers believe that the main obstacle to the Riyadh agreement does not reside in the withdrawal from the confrontation areas in Abyan or in the formation of the government, but rather lies in pushing the two parties to the agreement to make painful concessions stipulated in the agreement with regard to the subsequent stages of military and security arrangements that include the handover of heavy weapons and the withdrawal of military forces from the provinces that each party considers its own area of ​​influence, as is the case with Shabwa governorate, which the Muslim Brothers consider one of their main strongholds after losing Al-Jawf and Nehm, while the STC does not seem to accept the idea of ​​giving up its security influence in Aden in light of the growing lack of trust between the two parties.

The military part of the Riyadh agreement provides for the return of all forces that have moved from their main sites and camps towards the governorates of Aden, Abyan and Shabwa since the beginning of August 2019 to their previous positions locations with all their personnel and weapons, to be replaced by the security forces of the local authority in each governorate.

The agreement also provides for collecting all medium and heavy weapons of various types from all military and security forces in Aden, and transferring them to warehouses inside Aden which will be secured and supervised by the coalition leadership, as well as transferring all military forces of the government and military formations of the STC in Aden Governorate to camps outside Aden governorate to be determined by the coalition leadership and directly managed according to approved plans and under the direct supervision of the coalition, with the exception of the First Presidential Protection Brigade, which is entrusted with the task of protecting the presidential palaces and their surroundings, securing the president’s movements, and providing security protection for the leaders of the Southern Transitional Council in Aden.

The Riyadh Agreement, as signed in November 2019, provides for the unification of all military forces in Aden, Lahj, and Abyan and annexed them to the Ministry of Defence.

According to the security part of the agreement, the police and rescue forces in Aden will be responsible for securing the governorate while working on reorganising the government forces and military formations of the STC, in addition to reorganising the special forces, anti-terrorist forces, and military details assigned to protecting vital civilian facilities in Aden and the liberated governorates, the ports of Mukalla, Dhabba, Mokha, and the Balhaf oil facility. The agreement also stipulates the unification and redistribution of security forces, their numbering and their annexation to the Ministry of Interior in Aden, Abyan, Lahj and the rest of the other southern governorates.

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