World News

Yemen's southern separatists pull out of Riyadh agreement committees

DUBAI (Reuters) - Southern separatists in Yemen have pulled out of committees implementing a November agreement to end a power struggle in the south that had opened a new front in the country’s multifaceted war.

The pact was reached after more than a month of indirect talks in Saudi Arabia. Under the deal, the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) and other southerners would join a new national cabinet and place all forces under control of the internationally recognized government.

An STC spokesman told Reuters the STC negotiating team had withdrawn from the joint committees working to implement the deal, known as the Riyadh agreement.

It was not clear what impact this suspension would have on the future of the agreement, which Saudi Arabia had hailed as a step towards a wider political solution to a conflict which has raged since 2015.

A member of the STC’s presidential council, Salim al-Awlaqi, said in announcing the move on Twitter that it was in protest against violence in Shabwa province it blamed on forces loyal to the Islah party.

The STC and its backers the United Arab Emirates oppose the Islamist Islah party, which is the backbone of the government of internationally recognized President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Recent violence in Shabwa is part of an ongoing struggle for influence between forces loyal to Hadi and southern forces. The separatists accuse Hadi’s government of mismanagement and corruption and took over the interim capital Aden in August, prompting the talks which led to the Riyadh agreement.

The Aden standoff had opened a new front in the almost five-year war and fractured a Saudi-led coalition battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that ousted Hadi’s government from the capital, Sanaa, in the north in late 2014.

Implementation of the November pact has been slow and a number of deadlines missed, although it has enabled the return of the prime minister for the internationally recognized government to Aden.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington and Mohammad Ghobari; editing by Philippa Fletcher