Government and separatist forces withdraw from flashpoint in Abyan, Yemen

Government and separatist forces withdraw from flashpoint in Abyan, Yemen
A fighter loyal to Yemen’s separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) holds the separatist flag in the southern Abyan province. (AFP)
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Updated 12 December 2020

Government and separatist forces withdraw from flashpoint in Abyan, Yemen

Government and separatist forces withdraw from flashpoint in Abyan, Yemen
  • Under the Riyadh Agreement, the Yemeni government and STC would form a shared government and pull out of Aden and Abyan

AL-MUKALLA: The internationally recognized government of Yemen and the pro-independence, separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) began withdrawing their forces on Friday from a flashpoint in the southern province of Abyan, military officers from both sides told Arab News.

The latest redeployment of forces from contested areas in southern Yemen is part of the power-sharing Riyadh Agreement, which was designed to end hostilities between the two sides.

Alongside images of Saudi officers supervising the withdrawal of forces, Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Al-Jaber tweeted on Friday: “Our brave heroes from the Coordination and Political Liaison Team, the leadership and officers of the coalition forces, are hand in hand with the leaders and officers of the legitimate forces and the Southern Transitional Council to implement the agreement.”

Troops were seen on Friday afternoon leaving their positions in the contested Sheikh Salem area — under the supervision of Saudi officers — and heading towards a military base in the government-controlled Lawder district.

“The army has pulled out military units that are not part of the Abyan Axis from Sheikh Salem to Mukayras,” one army officer, who asked to remain anonymous, told Arab News by telephone.

The STC also announced the withdrawal of forces from Sheikh Salem to Aden and the shifting of another military brigade from Aden to Karesh in Lahj, a move that Mohammed Al-Naqeeb, a spokesperson for the STC forces in Abyan, told Arab News was intended to reinforce anti-Houthi forces.

“We are committed to our partnership with the (Arab) coalition and we thank them for their peace efforts,” Al-Naqeeb said, adding that the remaining military forces in Abyan would be withdrawn in phases.

On Thursday, the coalition announced that its forces in southern Yemen would monitor the separation of forces in contested areas in Abyan province and Aden and their redeployment to fight the Houthis.

SPEEDREAD

The latest redeployment of forces from contested areas in southern Yemen is part of the power-sharing Riyadh Agreement, which was designed to end hostilities between the two sides.

Under the Riyadh Agreement, the Yemeni government and STC would form a shared government and pull out of Aden and Abyan. Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi would appoint a new prime minister and a new governor and security chief for Aden. The implementation of the agreement has been drawn out by political wrangling over which should come first, the announcement of the new government or the withdrawal of forces.

The coalition’s latest statement was widely seen as a major breakthrough in the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement. Once security and military arrangements are agreed, Prime Minister-designate Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed will announce his cabinet, composed of 24 ministers with equal representation from both sides.

In Riyadh, government and STC sources told Arab News on Friday that Saeed has chosen his ministers and will likely announce his new government once military forces have completed their withdrawal.

Yemeni politicians and analysts said that the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement would unite forces against the Houthis and would help overcome issues including crumbling infrastructure and services and a falling currency.

Former prime minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr, a senior adviser to the Yemeni president, said he sees serious progress towards the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement. On Thursday, he tweeted: “The Houthis are our common enemy.”

The Houthis have exploited the rift between the Yemeni government and the STC to make territorial gains in several areas. “Since August 2019, efforts against the Houthis have dispersed and the economy has collapsed as important military commanders have been killed in the fighting between the government and the STC,” Yasser Al-Yafae, a political analyst based in Aden, told Arab News.

But Al-Yafae and other analysts predict that the redeployment of forces from Abyan and Aden to fight the Houthis will lead to military success.


Turkey summons Iran ambassador over accusations Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty: Al Arabiya

Turkey summons Iran ambassador over accusations Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty: Al Arabiya
Updated 57 min 57 sec ago

Turkey summons Iran ambassador over accusations Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty: Al Arabiya

Turkey summons Iran ambassador over accusations Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty: Al Arabiya

CAIRO: Turkey has summoned the Iranian ambassador over accusations by Tehran that Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty, Al Arabiya TV reported Sunday. 

Turkey said it expects from Tehran to stand by Ankara in “combating terrorism”. 

Last week, Iran summoned the Turkish ambassador in Tehran over comments made by Turkish officials accusing Iran of destabilizing the region by getting involved in Iraq and Syria. 


Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark

Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark
Updated 28 February 2021

Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark

Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark

Iran's health ministry said the country's coronavirus fatalities broke the 60,000 mark on Sunday, as the Islamic republic battles the Middle East's worst outbreak of the illness.
"Sadly in the past 24 hours, 93 people lost their lives to Covid-19, and total deaths from this disease reached 60,073," health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said in a televised address.
Iran has registered a total of 1,631,169 infections, according to the ministry.


Russian helicopter makes emergency landing in Syria

Russian helicopter makes emergency landing in Syria
Updated 28 February 2021

Russian helicopter makes emergency landing in Syria

Russian helicopter makes emergency landing in Syria
  • Russian Defense Ministry said the helicopter was not fired at

AMMAN/MOSCOW: A Russian Mi-35 helicopter made an emergency landing due to technical problems during a flight over Syria’s northern Hasaka province, state agencies quoted Russia’s Defense Ministry as saying on Sunday.
“The crew was quickly evacuated to the airfield. There is no threat to lives of the pilots,” the RIA news agency cited a Defense Ministry statement as saying.
The helicopter was not fired at, it added.
Syrian state media said earlier there were reports of a Russian helicopter crash in northeast Syria that killed the pilot.
It said the site of the crash was in Hasaka province, near Tal Tamr close to a Russian base.


Iranian police official dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province

Iranian police official dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province
Updated 28 February 2021

Iranian police official dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province

Iranian police official dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province

CAIRO: The Iranian parliament is reportedly sending a delegation to investigate alleged use of excessive force by government forces against protesters in the southeast Baluchistan region.

Iranian media reports said the delegation will investigate what has been described as “bloody” violence after unrest gripped the remote province following fatal border shootings.

The reports also said that the Iranian police force deputy in the region was dismissed over the violence. 


Vatican envoy to Iraq tested Covid-19 positive: officials

Vatican envoy to Iraq tested Covid-19 positive: officials
Updated 28 February 2021

Vatican envoy to Iraq tested Covid-19 positive: officials

Vatican envoy to Iraq tested Covid-19 positive: officials

BAGHDAD: The Vatican’s ambassador to Iraq Mitja Leskovar has tested positive for Covid-19, two officials told AFP Sunday, just days before Pope Francis’ historic visit.
“Yes, he tested positive, but it will have no impact on the visit,” an Iraqi official involved in the papal plans said.
An Italian diplomat also confirmed the infection.
As apostolic nuncio to Baghdad, Leskovar had been traveling across the country in recent weeks to prepare for the pope’s ambitious visit, including visits to Mosul in the north, the shrine city of Najaf and the southern site of Ur.
During foreign trips, popes typically stay at the nuncio’s residence, but Iraqi officials have not revealed where Francis will reside during his trip, citing security reasons.
Iraq is experiencing a resurgence of coronavirus infections, which the health ministry has blamed on a new faster-spreading strain that first emerged in the United Kingdom.
The country of 40 million is registering around 4,000 new cases per day, near the peak that it had reached in September, with total infections nearing 700,000 and deaths at nearly 13,400.
Pope Francis, as well as his Vatican staff and the dozens of international reporters traveling with him, have already been vaccinated.
Iraq itself has yet to begin its vaccination campaign.