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Saudi Arabia’s proposal to end standoff between allies in Yemen

Saudi Arabia has proposed a framework to end the latest standoff in southern Yemen between nominal allies under a Saudi-led coalition, three sources said, as violence escalates with the Houthi movement in the north of the country.

What you need to know

Previous clashes between Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC), a separatist group, have complicated UN efforts to end Yemen’s ruinous conflict and protect its fractured health sector from COVID-19.

The STC in April declared self-rule in Aden, interim seat of the Riyadh-backed government, and in other southern regions, risking reigniting violence between the two sides, both members of the anti-Houthi alliance.

Three sources with knowledge of the matter said Riyadh submitted a proposal, seen by Reuters news agency, to implement a power-sharing deal brokered by Saudi Arabia last November, but it stalled.

What’s in the proposal

It calls for a ceasefire in Abyan province and for the STC to rescind emergency rule. Thereafter, Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi would appoint a governor and security head for Aden, and name a prime minister to form a cabinet that includes the STC. The STC would then remove its forces from Aden and redeploy in Abyan, following which the new government would be formed.

Mistrust remains an obstacle to Riyadh’s attempts to prevent another front in the multifaceted war it seeks to exit, a goal that has gained urgency ahead of its hosting of a G20 summit in November and as Yemen struggles with a coronavirus outbreak.

The background

Hadi’s government was overthrown by the Houthis from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the coalition to intervene. The war, which has caused the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, has been at a deadlock for years.

Riyadh late last year launched indirect talks with the Houthis, who say they are fighting a corrupt system. The conflict is seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran

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