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Saudi Arabia takes control of Aden to end crisis between its two allies in Yemen

SAUDI ARABIA (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Saudi forces have taken control of the southern city of Aden as part of efforts to end a power struggle between the Riyadh-backed government and southern separatists, four sources familiar with the matter said.

Last week, the UAE, Riyadh’s main partner in the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen, began withdrawing its troops from Aden in what appeared to be a step to pave the way for an agreement to end the crisis.

The UAE-backed separatists are also partners in the 2015 Yemen-led coalition to bring President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government back to power after the Tehran-backed Houthis forced them out of the capital Sanaa.

Yemen’s widespread conflict in the region is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Houthi group denies being a puppet of Iran and says it is fighting a corrupt regime.

In August, the southern transitional council, seeking autonomy in the south, overturned Hadi’s government and took control of Aden, whose interim government was based, sparking wider clashes that opened a new front in the war.

Two Yemeni officials told Reuters Saudi Arabia last week deployed more troops to replace UAE troops at Aden airport and at the city’s military bases.

Two other informed sources said a Saudi leader officially took over there last week, allowing him to oversee security in the city and its suburbs.

Neither a coalition spokesman nor the UAE government has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Saudi Arabia has been hosting indirect talks for a month between Hadi’s government and separatist leaders. The sources said that the two sides are about to agree on a Saudi proposal to give the Southern Transitional Council positions in the cabinet and put separatist forces under the command of the Yemeni government.

Hadi’s government has asked the UAE to stop arming and training separatist forces, while the UAE has said Hadi’s government is ineffective and does not trust the Islamists it allies with.

Saudi Arabia may have decided to unite forces behind Hadi before responding to an offer by the Houthi group to stop targeting Saudi Arabia with missiles and drones if the coalition halts air strikes on Yemen.

Iran, which Saudi Arabia blames for an attack on oil facilities claimed by the Houthis, said it viewed the Houthi group’s offer as positive.

Progress on both tracks would strengthen United Nations efforts to resume peace talks. The war has claimed tens of thousands of lives and pushed millions more to the brink of starvation.

The UAE has already reduced its presence in Yemen at a time when Western allies, who provide the coalition with weapons and intelligence, have pressed for an end to the war, as well as tension with Iran.

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