STC head Aidarous Al Zubaidi Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A delegation from Yemen’s self-styled Southern Transitional Council (STC) is currently in Saudi Arabia for talks on a standoff with the Yemeni government over the southern city of Aden, Saudi television Al Arabia reported Wednesday.

The delegation, led by the STC head Aidarus Al Zoubaidi, arrived in the Saudi city of Jeddah late Tuesday in response to an invitation made last week for Yemeni sides to meet to resolve the crisis related to the takeover of Aden by STC loyalists.

The STC team is expected to meet the Yemeni government for talks to be sponsored by Saudi Arabia and an Arab alliance fighting Iran-aligned Al Houthi militants in Yemen, according to Al Arabiya.

On Tuesday, UN’s special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths welcomed efforts by Saudi Arabia to convene a dialogue in Jeddah to discuss the current situation and resolve its difficulties.

On August 10, forces of the STC, a body seeking self-rule for southern Yemen, wrested control of government military sites and state institutions in Aden.

In response, the Arab alliance, co-led by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, urged the separatist forces to pull out from the seized posts. Saudi Arabia also proposed for the Yemeni government and the STC to meet on its soil to defuse tensions that are seen as distracting the alliance from its military campaign against Al Houthis.

The STC loyalists have reportedly withdrawn from some of the state institutions under their control in Aden, but the government is calling for a full withdrawal.

Last week, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, visited Saudi Arabia where he called on Yemeni sides to focus on dialogue to end the Aden unrest.

Aden became the seat of the Yemeni government after Al Houthi extremists overran the capital Sana’a in late 2014, plunging the impoverished country in a ruinous war.

UN warning

Griffiths warned Tuesday that the war-ravaged country faced the prospect of breaking apart unless an agreement ending the decades-long conflict is found urgently.

He told the UN Security Council that there is “no time to lose” in brokering a peace deal to bring the fighting to a close.

“The fragmentation of Yemen is becoming a stronger and more pressing threat,” the British diplomat said via videolink from Jordan.

“The stakes are becoming too high for the future of Yemen, the Yemeni people and the wider region. Yemen cannot wait,” he added.

Griffiths comments came as Yemeni STC forces drove government troops out of two military camps in deadly clashes in Abyan province Tuesday, reinforcing their presence in the south after they seized the de facto capital Aden.

He condemned the recent takeover of Aden by the Southern Transitional Council (STC) in clashes that reflected the independence ambitions of southern Yemen and left around 40 people dead.

“We certainly cannot underestimate the risks that these events pose for the future of the country,” Griffiths told delegates.

“No country can tolerate the stresses of internal conflict indefinitely,” he added saying the war must be brought to an end “swiftly and peacefully.”

Griffiths warned that further deterioration of the security situation in Aden and other areas could provide fertile ground for a resurgence of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Daesh.

“(It) almost certainly will allow those activities to expand and gather momentum once again as we have seen before, with a terrible impact on the civilian population and prospects for future stability in this key strategic location,” he said.

South Yemen

South Yemen was a separate state until it merged with the north in 1990.

Four years later, an armed secession bid ended in occupation by northern forces, giving rise to resentments which persist to this day.

The separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) and government forces have been fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in a years-long war that has pushed the country to the brink of famine.

A spike in tensions between the two has constrained their cooperation in the fight against the Houthis, however.

The conflict has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people and displaced around 3.3 million since 2015.

Two-thirds of the population - about 20 million people - require humanitarian support, according to the United Nations.

-With inputs from agencies