Saudi Arabia’s cabinet has urged Yemen’s southern 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 parts of a military alliance formed by Saudi Arabia to battle Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which overthrew 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 between the STC and the internationally-recognised government agreed in November.
The virtual cabinet meeting was chaired by King Salman. State news agency SPA posted images of the monarch and his son and de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), taking part from 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 UN peace efforts.
The United States welcomed the coalition ceasefire announcement, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV reported on Wednesday, citing US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was “concerned” over the STC’s declaration of self-rule, warning such actions threatened efforts to revive talks between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels.
“Such unilateral actions only exacerbate instability in Yemen,” Pompeo said in a statement on Tuesday.
“They are especially unhelpful at a time when the country is threatened by COVID-19 and also threaten to complicate the efforts of the UN Special Envoy to revive political negotiations between the government and the Houthi rebels.”
Pompeo also called on the STC and Yemen’s internationally recognised government to “re-engage in the political process provided under the Riyadh Agreement”.
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.