Yemen’s Saudi-backed government said on Wednesday it would not hold talks with southern separatists unless they hand back control of Aden port, after the separatist chief arrived in Saudi Arabia to discuss the standoff between the nominal allies.
Saudi Arabia, leader of a military coalition that includes the separatists, called for a summit after southern forces on Aug. 10 took over Aden, interim seat of the government, in a move that fractured the Sunni Muslim alliance.
The Yemeni government and coalition partner the United Arab Emirates have traded blame over the crisis. Riyadh wants the alliance to resume its focus on fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi movement which has stepped up attacks on Saudi cities.
“We will not participate in any dialogue with the Southern Transitional Council (STC) unless it withdraws for the sites it seized, hands over weapons, allows government forces to return and ends all its violations,” said a foreign ministry statement.
The separatist STC has refused earlier similar calls and on Tuesday it extended its grip on the south by seizing government military camps in nearby Abyan. STC leader Aidaroos al-Zubaidi, arrived in the Saudi city of Jeddah that evening.
Both sides are part of the alliance that intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Houthis, who ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014. His government rebased to Aden while Hadi resides in Riyadh.
However the UAE-backed separatists, who accuse Hadi’s government of mismanagement, are demanding self-rule in the south and a say in any talks regarding Yemen’s future.