Yemenis optimistic as sides accept Saudi plan to implement Riyadh Agreement

A view of Yemen's second city of Aden on June 29, 2020. Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war since 2014 that pits the government — backed by a Saudi-led military coalition that provides air support — against Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who control much of the north, including the capital. (AFP)
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Updated 29 July 2020

Yemenis optimistic as sides accept Saudi plan to implement Riyadh Agreement

  • The Yemeni government said it would comply with the Riyadh Agreement and its related implementation mechanism

AL-MUKALLA: Yemenis on Wednesday expressed cautious optimism after the government and separatists accepted a Saudi-brokered proposal to accelerate the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement.

Leading figures also praised the Kingdom for its pivotal role in sponsoring and mediating tough talks between the two sides that had led to the formation of a new government and the ending of hostilities in southern Yemen.

In a tweet, Abdulmalik Al-Mekhlafi, Yemen’s former deputy prime minister and an adviser to the country’s president, described the news as representing the start of a “new phase” in bringing peace to the war-torn nation.

Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi issued presidential decrees mandating incumbent Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed to form a new government and for the appointment of a new governor and security director for Aden province.

The separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) reciprocated by abandoning its controversial self-rule declaration and pledging its adherence to the terms of the new proposal, including allowing the new government to resume duties from Aden.

The Yemeni government said it would comply with the Riyadh Agreement and its related implementation mechanism, including halting military operations in Abyan.

“The government appreciates the efforts of brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and their support for the implementation of the agreement that aims at establishing security and stability, preserving the unity of Yemen, and pushing the wheel of development,” said government spokesperson Rajeh Badi in a brief statement carried by the official Saba news agency.

Ali Al-Katheri, a senior STC member who took part in the discussions in Riyadh, told Arab News that the Kingdom’s diplomatic efforts over recent months had paved the way for the success of talks. He said the agreement would help unify military efforts against the Iranian-backed Houthis and return stability to Aden and other southern provinces.

“We look forward to more efforts by brothers in the Kingdom and the UAE to move toward achieving the urgent implementation of the provisions of the Riyadh Agreement and uniting the efforts of all parties in confronting the Houthi militia and terrorist groups,” Al-Katheri added.

Since early 2018, Aden, the interim capital of Yemen, has been the scene of sporadic battles between the two sides that have damaged the city’s infrastructure and paralyzed government bodies.

Aden residents were hopeful that implementation of the Riyadh Agreement would lead to a revival of government institutions, the paying of salaries, and the restoration of public services such as electricity.

“People have been greatly affected, first by the war with the Houthis, and later by the war between the government and the STC,” Fatehi Ben Lazerq, editor of popular Yemeni news site Aden Al-Ghad, told Arab News.

“There is no option other than a political settlement that would bring back the situation to normal. The situation was not that great before the beginning of hostilities between the government and STC, but things got worse after the war between them,” Ben Lazerq said.

When the separatists announced self-rule in April and expelled the government from Aden and other southern provinces, the government mounted a military offensive in Abyan aimed at recapturing Aden. Dozens of people were killed in heavy fighting that blocked the main road linking Abyan with other provinces and damaged power and water lines.

Shouqra and neighboring Sheikh Salem became the main battlegrounds, and residents there on Wednesday expressed delight over the Saudi-brokered peace proposal.

“The first thing they should do is withdraw military forces from Shouqra and fix electricity and water supplies,” said Hassan Salem, a resident of Shouqra. He added that some areas had been without electricity and water since the beginning of the government’s military offensive in May. “I was very happy when I heard the news about the agreement.”

Under the proposal, Yemeni government forces and separatists will pull out of contested areas in Abyan and move military units and equipment from Aden.


Brian Hook: Arms embargo to be extended one way or another

Updated 14 August 2020

Brian Hook: Arms embargo to be extended one way or another

  • The special representative for Iran asked members to respect the wishes of Middle East nations that “live in Iran’s dark shadow” and vote for the extension.

NEW YORK: The US has introduced a draft UN Security Council resolution to extend the Iran arms embargo on Iran which expires in October.

In a telephonic press briefing, Brian Hook, the special representative for Iran, said the resolution was “a clean rollover of the existing arms embargo” which was put in place in 2007.

“Letting the arms embargo expire was a big deficiency of the Iran nuclear deal. Its expiration should never have been based on an artificial timeline of five years. It was an irresponsible concession,” he said.

Hook called the new proposal “a compromise text” with the US adding provisions that had been supported by all permanent members of the council.

US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft called on all members to “wake up to the real world implications of allowing the arms embargo to lapse. The UNSC’s purpose is to promote global peace and security. Failure to extend the arms embargo would make a mockery of that responsibility.”

Hook asked members to respect the wishes of Middle East nations that “live in Iran’s dark shadow” and vote for the extension.

The diplomat read a quote from a letter by the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), who came together to ask the council to extend the arms embargo.

“(Iran) has continued to proliferate weapons across the region as an integral part of its expansionist regional policy and longstanding interference in the internal affairs of Arab states, including GCC member states, in clear violation of the UN Charter. We have stressed that Iran has been a state sponsor of terrorism in our region and has actively incubated, trained, equipped, and directed violent armed terrorists throughout the region.”
 

Hook urged council members to respect the wishes of those closest to the conflict and vote for the extension:

“Abstaining may carry a certain appeal for those who want to have it both ways, to express concern without addressing the concern. But abstentions will not be forgotten by nations in the region who are counting on council members to vote yes.”

Hook resigned this week. Asked by Arab News what his successor, Elliott Abrams, would bring to the table, Hook said: “People are getting an upgrade. He has been working on the Middle East’s issues for decades. He will do a great job on this file.”

Abrams’s nomination had immediately triggered speculations that a “snapback activation” would follow.

Critics argue that since the US pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran, it is legally unable to trigger the snapback move, which faces opposition from Russia and China.

In answer to the claim, the US has circulated a legal memo explaining its rights under resolution 2231 to initiate the snapback.

“It’s important for people to define their terms. The Iran deal is a political arrangement consisting of non-binding political commitments,” Hook said. “So those who argue that a state cannot avail itself of legal rights if it is in violation of corresponding legal obligations don’t know how to read 2231.”

But Hook reiterated the administration’s present focus was on the arms embargo, and ensuring that it passes. “We certainly made the case on the merits for why it needs to be extended, and we’ll see how the council lines up. But … one way or the other, we are going to ensure that the arms embargo is extended,” he said.