Yemen separatists capture Aden, government confined to palace

The internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi has been confined to the presidential palace in Aden. (AP Photo)
Updated 30 January 2018

Yemen separatists capture Aden, government confined to palace

ADEN: Southern Yemeni separatists took control of the port city of Aden after two days of fighting, residents said on Tuesday, confining the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to the presidential palace.
Fighting between southern separatists, backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), against forces loyal to Saudi-based president Hadi, risk crippling their once united campaign against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen’s north.
The UAE is a major component of a Saudi-led military coalition of Arab states that has supported Hadi’s government since the Houthis seized much of the country, including the capital Sanaa, three years ago. Hadi’s government operates out of Aden, while he lives in Saudi Arabia.
Residents said forces loyal to the Southern Transitional Council (STC), formed last year to push for the revival of the former independent state of South Yemen, seized the last stronghold of Hadi’s Presidential Protection Forces in the Dar Saad area of northern Aden, in battles that at times involved heavy artillery and tank fire.
Activists shared photos on social media of the flag of the former independent Southern Yemen state flying over the base’s gate. Southern Yemen was united with Northern Yemen in 1990.
Aden residents said STC fighters had earlier overrun Presidential Protection forces outposts in central Aden’s Crater and Tawahi districts.
They stopped outside the Al-Maasheeq palace, where Prime Minister Ahmed bin Daghr’s cabinet is based, they said.
Witnesses said hundreds of people danced and sang as they celebrated the STC victory with fireworks that lit the night skies over Aden. The crowd chanted slogans demanding restoration of the southern state.
Mosques also mixed their calls for prayers with victory claims in Crater, residents said.
The government-run Saba news agency put the death toll in two days of fighting at 16 and the number of wounded at 141. An official at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said at least 36 were killed and 185 were wounded.
The fighting began on Sunday after a deadline set last week by the STC for Hadi to dismiss bin Daghr’s government, which the STC accused of corruption and mismanagement. The government denies the allegation.
Sources at the STC said negotiations were underway to allow bin Daghr’s government to leave the city safely, but a government source said bin Daghr had no intention of leaving Aden.
STC head Aydaroos Al-Zubaydi, in his first public comments since the fighting began, said the separatists were still committed to the coalition’s goals of driving the Houthis out of Sanaa, but he declined to say whether he intended to set up a separate administration in Aden.
“We have tasks alongside the Arab coalition and its Decisive Storm (operation). But the people of the South have the right to their own state when the international community is ready for that,” Zubaydi said in an interview with the Arabic channel of France 24 TV.
The Saudi-led coalition, which intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 to restore Hadi’s government after the Houthis forced him into exile, called in a statement on Tuesday on both parties to cease hostilities.
“The coalition will take all the measures it deems necessary to restore stability and security in Aden,” it said.
Although Hadi remains in exile in Saudi Arabia, his administration and local allies nominally control about four-fifths of Yemen’s territory, although most population centers are in the hands of the Houthis.
The factional fighting in the south compounds the misery of Yemenis whose country has been torn apart by three years of conflict between Hadi’s forces and the Houthis, which has also opened the way for Islamist militants to widen their influence.
In the southern Shabwa province, at least 12 soldiers from another local forces trained and backed by the UAE were killed in a bomb and gun attack on their outpost, residents and officials said.
While no one claimed responsibility for the attack, it mirrored previous operations by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).


Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

Updated 21 January 2020

Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

  • Expert says sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in Libyan conflict unlikely

JEDDAH: With the conclusion of the Libya peace summit in Berlin on Sunday, it remains to be seen whether Turkey is willing to implement the provisions of the final communique and stay out of the conflict.

Ankara is accused of sending Syrian fighters to the Libyan battlefront in support of Fayez Al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) against military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

During the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron voiced concerns over the arrival of Syrian and other foreign fighters in Tripoli, saying: “That must end.” 

Samuel Ramani, a geopolitical analyst at Oxford University, speculates that Turkey will not deploy more troops.  

But he told Arab News that a sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in the Libyan conflict is unlikely for the moment as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will remain present “until the GNA’s future is secured.”

Noting the difficulty of enforcing the Berlin agreement, Ramani said Turkey might not be the first mover in breaching a cease-fire in Libya.

But he added that Turkey will not hesitate to deploy forces and upend the agreement if Haftar makes any moves that it considers “provocative.”

The summit called for sanctions on those who violate the UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya.

Turkish opposition MPs recently criticized the expanded security pact between Ankara and the GNA, saying the dispatch of materials and equipment to Libya breaches the UN arms embargo.

Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.

Micha’el Tanchum, Analyst

The summit does not seem to have resolved ongoing disputes regarding the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, a planned natural gas pipeline connecting eastern Mediterranean energy resources to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete.

The Cypriot presidency accused Turkey of being a “pirate state,” citing Ankara’s recent drilling off its coasts just a day after Brussels warned Turkey that its plans were illegal.

Erdogan dismissed the warning and threatened to send to the EU some 4 million refugees that Turkey is hosting.

Turkey dispatched its Yavuz drillship to the south of Cyprus on Sunday, based on claims deriving from the maritime delimitation agreement with the GNA.

Turkey’s insistence on gas exploration in the region may be subject to sanctions as early as this week, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday.

Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based political analyst, drew attention to Article 25 of the Berlin final communique, which underlined the “Libyan Political Agreement as a viable framework for the political solution in Libya,” and called for the “establishment of a functioning presidency council and the formation of a single, unified, inclusive and effective Libyan government approved by the House of Representatives.”

Sezer told Arab News: “Getting approval from Libya’s Haftar-allied House of Representatives would be a serious challenge for Ankara because Haftar recently considered all agreements with Turkey as a betrayal. This peace conference once more showed that Turkey should keep away from Libya.”

Many experts remain skeptical about the possible outcome of the summit. 

Micha’el Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said: “Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.”