Fighting intensifies in Yemeni province despite truce

In this file photo taken on May 11, 2020, fighters from of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) gesture following clashes with Saudi-backed government forces in the Sheikh Salim area in the southern Abyan province. (AFP)
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Updated 24 June 2020

Fighting intensifies in Yemeni province despite truce

  • Government forces accused separatists of attacking their positions with artillery and heavy machine guns and said they only acted in response

AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni government forces and southern separatists traded mortar and cannon fire in the southern province of Abyan on Tuesday, despite a truce and diplomatic talks in Saudi Arabia, local officials said.

Separatists said the government launched an offensive on their forces in the Al-Taryia region in Abyan, which triggered heavy clashes and resulted in deaths on both sides.

“They launched a big offensive from Shouqra, hours after agreeing to the truce. We are committed to the truce and implementing the Riyadh Agreement as long as the government abides by it,” Nizar Haytham, a spokesperson for the Southern Transitional Council (STC), told Arab News.

He added that STC forces acted in self-defense and that a Saudi-led committee had been formed to monitor the truce.

Government forces accused separatists of attacking their positions with artillery and heavy machine guns and said they only acted in response.

“Fighting has not stopped for even one hour since the truce was announced,” an army officer, who asked to remain anonymous, told Arab News from Abyan.

The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Tuesday that its Aden hospital treated more than 20 people who were injured in the fighting.

The Yemeni government and separatists have clashed since early 2018, when the government accused separatists of obstructing ministers’ movements in the port city of Aden, the country’s interim capital.

In August, separatists expelled the government from Aden, prompting loyalists into regrouping in Abyan and launching a counterattack.

Seeking to broker peace, Saudi Arabia oversaw a peace deal in November, known as the Riyadh Agreement.

Under the deal, both sides would disarm and withdraw personnel from Aden, Abyan and Shabwa, as the internationally recognized president names a new government and governors.

Western diplomats and Yemeni politicians have praised the Saudi-brokered agreement for including the separatists in the decision-making process and allowing the Yemeni government to operate from Aden.

“By implementing it the Yemeni government and STC will be in a situation where they are united in a newly formed government where they both feel they have adequate representation. The STC have been demanding a place at the UN talks and the Riyadh Agreement offers them a place at the table as part of the delegation,” Michael Aron, the British ambassador to Yemen, told Arab News.

The UN Yemen envoy has attempted to forge a peace deal that would put an end to the war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Fighting also continued in northern Yemen, where government try to repel attacks by Iranian-backed Houthi militias, in Marib, Jawf and Al-Bayda.

On Tuesday, Yemen’s defense ministry announced the death of Brig. Gen. Naji Ali Hanshel, a senior military officer killed in battle against Houthi militias.

Iraq’s foreign minister makes first visit to Iran

Updated 26 September 2020

Iraq’s foreign minister makes first visit to Iran

  • Iran sees neighboring Iraq as a possible route to bypass US sanctions that President Donald Trump re-imposed in 2018

TEHRAN: Iraq’s foreign minister arrived Saturday in Tehran for bilateral talks with senior Iranian officials, according to the state-run news agency.
IRNA reported that Fuad Hussein planned to meet his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani, in what marked his first visit to the Iranian capital.
Zarif visited Baghdad in mid-July, when he met with Hussein and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. It was Zarif’s first visit to Iraq since a US airstrike in January killed a top Iranian general, Qassim Soleimani, outside Baghdad’s international airport. The strike catapulted Iraq to the brink of a US-Iran proxy war that could have destabilized the Middle East.
After Zarif’s trip, the Iraqi premier visited Iran in July.
The report did not elaborate on the main reasons behind the top Iraqi diplomat’s two-day trip to Tehran.
Iran sees neighboring Iraq as a possible route to bypass US sanctions that President Donald Trump re-imposed in 2018 after pulling the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
Last year, Iran’s exports to Iraq amounted to nearly $9 billion, the official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday. It said the two nations will discuss increasing the amount to $20 billion.
Before the current global pandemic, some 5 million Iranian pilgrims annually brought in nearly $5 billion visiting Iraq’s Shiite holy sites.
Iran has seen the worst outbreak in the region, with more than 443,000 thousand confirmed cases and at least 25,300 deaths.
A news website affiliated with Iranian state TV,, reported that Iran canceled all its flights to Iraqi cities until the religious holiday of Arbaeen, due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. The holiday marks the end of the forty days of mourning that follow annually on the death anniversary of the seventh-century Muslim leader Hussein, who was killed at the Battle of Karbala during the tumultuous first century of Islam’s history.
Iran fought an eight-year war with Iraq that killed nearly 1 million people on both sides, after former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded in the early 1980s.