April 28, 2020 / 9:27 PM / a month ago

Saudi cabinet calls on Yemen's southern separatists to rescind emergency

CAIRO (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s cabinet has urged Yemen’s main separatist group, which has declared self-rule in the south, to abide by an agreement to end a previous standoff with the Saudi-backed government.

The declaration by the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) on Sunday, which included emergency rule in southern regions, threatens to renew conflict with the government.

They are both part of a military alliance formed by Saudi Arabia to battle Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which ousted the internationally recognised government from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014.

“Any step that is contrary to the Riyadh agreement should be cancelled,” the Saudi cabinet said in a statement issued late on Tuesday, referring to a power-sharing deal agreed in November.

The virtual cabinet meeting was chaired by King Salman. State news agency SPA posted images of the monarch and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, taking part at separate locations.

The Saudi-led coalition on Monday described the STC’s announcement of emergency rule in the south, including the interim seat of government Aden, as an “escalatory action” at a time when all parties should focus on confronting the novel coronavirus.

The cabinet also lauded the coalition for extending by one month a nationwide ceasefire due to the coronavirus, which Riyadh said would also help alleviate the suffering of Yemenis during the holy month of Ramadan, which began on Friday, and support U.N. peace efforts.

The United States welcomed the coalition ceasefire announcement, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV reported on Wednesday, citing U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker.

Yemen has been mired in conflict since the coalition intervened in March 2015 against the Houthis, who control Sanaa and most big urban centres. They have not accepted the truce.

The war has killed more than 100,000 people and pushed millions to the verge of famine.

Reporting by Nayera Abdallah and Omar Fahmy; Editing by Chris Reese, Robert Birsel

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