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.


UN warns of possible ‘war crimes’ in Turkish-controlled Syria

Updated 37 min 20 sec ago

UN warns of possible ‘war crimes’ in Turkish-controlled Syria

  • The victims include people perceived to be allied with opposing parties or as being critical of the actions of the Turkish-affiliated armed groups, Bachelet’s office said
  • Those affiliated groups have also seized and looted houses, land and property without any apparent military necessity, said OHCHR

GENEVA: Armed groups in the area of northern Syria controlled by Turkey may have committed war crimes and other violations of international law, the UN rights chief said Friday.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the situation in those areas of Syria was grim, with violence and criminality rife.
In a statement, Bachelet’s UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said it had noted an “alarming pattern in recent months of grave violations,” having documented increased killings, kidnappings, unlawful transfers of people, seizures of land and properties and forcible evictions.
The victims include people perceived to be allied with opposing parties or as being critical of the actions of the Turkish-affiliated armed groups, Bachelet’s office said.
Those affiliated groups have also seized and looted houses, land and property without any apparent military necessity, said OHCHR.
Furthermore, increased infighting among the various Turkish-affiliated armed groups over power-sharing was causing civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.
Turkey controls large stretches of northeastern Syria through various armed groups, and is conducting operations aimed at driving out Kurdish militias and extremists.
In October last year, Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies occupied a 120-kilometer (75-mile) stretch of land inside the Syrian border from Kurdish forces.
Ankara has also deployed forces in several military posts it established in northwestern Idlib as part of a 2018 deal with regime ally Moscow, while Turkey also controls a stretch of territory along its border in neighboring Aleppo province following a series of military offensives since 2016.Bachelet’s office said it had documented the abduction and disappearance of civilians, including women and children.
It also said that from the start of the year until last Monday, it had verified the deaths of at least 116 civilians as a result of improvised explosive devices and explosive remnants of war, while a further 463 civilians were injured.
“I urge Turkey to immediately launch an impartial, transparent and independent investigation into the incidents we have verified, account for the fate of those detained and abducted by the affiliated armed groups and hold accountable those responsible for what may, in some instances, amount to crimes under international law, including war crimes,” Bachelet said.
“This is all the more vital given that we have received disturbing reports that some detainees and abductees have allegedly been transferred to Turkey following their detention in Syria by affiliated armed groups.”
Meanwhile Bachelet voiced concern that parties to the conflict in Syria were using essential services as a weapon.
“Impeding access to water, sanitation and electricity endangers the lives of large numbers of people, a danger rendered all the more acute amid fighting a global pandemic,” she said.