A joint statement issued on Sunday by the two Gulf states – leaders of an Arab coalition that is battling Yemen‘s Houthi rebels – called on the UAE-backed southern separatists and the Saudi-backed government to prepare for “constructive dialogue” to end the crisis between the two nominal allies.
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“They [the two countries] also called for an immediate end to all military operations as well as violations against any public and private property,” said the joint statement carried by state news agencies SPA and WAM.
The Saudi-UAE coalition, which receives support from Western powers, intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015, shortly after the Houthi rebels took control of much of Yemen’s north and removed Hadi’s government from the capital, Sanaa.
But the war for Yemen’s south has opened a new front in the five-year war and threatens to complicate the multi-tiered conflict in the impoverished country.
In August, the Security Belt Forces – dominated by the secessionist Southern Transitional Council – took control of the southern city of Aden, the base of the Saudi-backed government since it was removed from Sanaa in 2014.
The move exposed simmering divisions between the two countries that analysts say undermines the joint campaign against the Houthis.
Talks to end the power struggle in the Saudi city of Jeddah reached a dead-end and both sides were gathering troops to prepare for further battle, officials said on Friday, an indication that a rift between Saudi Arabia and ally UAE had deepened.
Analysts believe Riyadh’s main goal in the conflict is to ensure that Houthi rebels are not a threat operating from across Saudi Arabia’s southern border.
Abu Dhabi, on the other hand, is believed to be more concerned with creating an independent state in the south of Yemen, offering training and support to the secessionists.
The UAE, which fell out with Hadi’s government shortly before the separatists took Aden, intervened last week to support the separatists by launching air raids on government forces in order to recapture the city. The UAE said the air attacks targeted “terrorist militias” in self-defence.
The government forces withdrew and urged Saudi Arabia to intervene and halt the strikes.
Riyadh warned the Abu Dhabi-backed separatists that any attempt to destabilise Yemen amounted to a threat to the kingdom while stressing there was “no alternative” to Hadi’s government.
The Yemen conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, since 2015 and driven millions more to the brink of famine in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.