A power-sharing deal has been signed between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and southern separatists, in a Saudi-brokered initiative.
This power-sharing deal, however, does not put an end to the initial fighting between Houthi rebels and the internationally-recognised government that is still raging on.
Instead, this agreement could quell the unrest that was sparked after secessionist forces took control of Yemen’s interim capital Aden back in August.
The move had distracted the Saudi-led coalition from its fight against the Houthis.
At a televised ceremony in Riyadh on Tuesday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said “this agreement will open a new period of stability in Yemen.”
In a ceremony attended by Yemen's President H.E Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, STC leader Aidarous Al Zoubeidi, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, HRH #Saudi Crown Prince oversees the signing of the Riyadh agreement. pic.twitter.com/dspCPcsNQ5
— Saudi Embassy (@SaudiEmbassyUSA) November 5, 2019
In attendance to the ceremony were Abu Dhabi’s crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the head of the secessionist Southern Transitional Council, Aidarous al-Zubaidi.
Details of the deal
According to details of the deal, the Southern Transitional Council (STC) – backed by the United Arab Emirates – will reportedly be handed a number of ministries, while the internationally-recognized government will be able to return to Aden under control of the Saudi-led coalition.
I appreciate the great efforts made by Saudi Arabia in unifying the Yemeni people and its pivotal role in bringing about the Riyadh Agreement. We sincerely wish that peace and prosperity prevail and that Yemenis enjoy security, stability and development. pic.twitter.com/P1qsu1Ydqd
— محمد بن زايد (@MohamedBinZayed) November 5, 2019
That means Saudi-backed Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is expected to return to Aden and possibly put together a new cabinet.
According to the Associated Press, this deal also states that the separatists agree to disband their militias which would then be integrated into Hadi’s forces within three months.
The deal also puts the two groups in alliance against a common enemy: the Houthis.
In return for these concessions, the southern separatists will take part in United Nations-brokered talks between Hadi’s government and the Houthis rebels.
In a statement issued by the UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths congratulated the two sides on a deal that he said would propel efforts to end the wider civil war that continues to devastate the country.
“The signing of this agreement is an important step for our collective efforts to advance a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Yemen,” added Griffiths.
In August, the UAE-backed southern separatists took control of Aden from forces loyal to Yemen’s President Hadi who has been in exile in Saudi Arabia since 2014 after the Huthis took control of Sanaa and much of northern Yemen.
The separatist movement – which has sought self-rule in southern Yemen – turned on government troops as its forces seized their interim seat in Aden.
Weeks of bloody fighting ensued, which led many to fear of a weakening of the anti-Houthi coalition and ultimately of finding a solution to the civil war.
The STC had initially joined the Saudi-led military bloc against the Houthis in 2015 to help restore Hadi’s government.
In Yemen’s history, there has always been a north – south divide.
It’s never been a big secret that those in the South have sought independence, especially since the official formation of the STC in May 2017.
“It has been developing for a while and now seemingly reached a tipping point,” Sheila Carapico, a professor of political science specialising in the Middle East and Yemen told RFI.
Yemen has always been different than its other regional neighbours, but in particular is the division between north and south.
Under the Ottomans, the country split into two when the south sought its independence. Soon after, however, it was taken over by the British, and it wasn’t until the push for pan-Arabism hit the region in the 1960s that the Yemenis were able to kick out the British in 1967.
At that point, southern Yemen was the “only Marxist country in the entire Arabian peninsula”, Adam Baron, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and International Security Programme fellow at the journal New America, told RFI.
“The southern dimension is often ignored by almost all the interventions that the international community make to try and resolve the conflict,” explained Nadwa al-Dawsari, a Yemen country director with the Center for Civilians and Conflict.
The two nations remained separate until unifying in the 1990s, but tensions grew between the two regions, leading to the 1994 civil war.
Afterwards, the southerners felt marginalised and left out of major key government decisions, stressed al-Dawsari.
And then again, as efforts were made to restabilise relations, tensions increased, culminating in the 2011 uprising and finally in the 2014 war after the Houthis took over Sanaa.
Blueprint for peace
Tuesday’s agreement is seen as a significant step as it means all efforts can once again be concentrated in finding a solution to end the fighting between the anti-Houthi coalition and the Houthi rebels.
A former UN Security Council Yemen consultant told Al Jazeera that it’s even possible that this latest agreement could be a “blueprint or cornerstone for bringing peace to Yemen altogether.”