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Talks to end power struggle stall in southern Yemen

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Talks aimed at ending a violent power struggle in southern Yemen have stalled as both sides appear poised to resume fighting, officials said, threatening further turmoil in a new front that threatens to further divisions in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia, which leads an Arab alliance to fight the Iranian-allied Houthi group in Yemen, is hosting indirect talks to resolve the crisis between UAE-backed separatists and the Riyadh-backed government amid disputes between the kingdom and its ally the United Arab Emirates.

Fighting in the south between presumed allies threatens to complicate UN efforts to end the multilateral war.

Saudi Arabia appealed to separatists seeking to revive the Republic of South Yemen to give up control of Aden and voiced support for President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government on Thursday and threatened to “deal firmly”.

Two Yemeni officials said the Saudi statement came after talks in the city of Jeddah reached a dead end and both sides began to mobilize troops for more fighting.

Leaders of the Abu Dhabi-backed southern transitional council have refused to integrate their forces under the authority of the Saudi-backed government.

It has tens of thousands of fighters armed and trained by the UAE armed forces.

“The situation is heading towards war, so prepare the people of the south for a public exhortation and public mobilization … the failure of dialogue and the declaration of war,” the security belt forces of the council said in a tweet on Friday.

The talks have also been stalled by a dispute over the role of separatists in the government after they asked for the vice-president’s post along with two key portfolios. Yemen’s current vice president is Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a politically veteran military commander and Hadi’s ally.

– Separatist movement –

Yemeni Information Minister Muammar al-Iryani declined to give details of the talks but said the demands of the transitional council meant “legitimizing the taking of arms against the state”.

“We cannot accept the presence of armed groups outside the authority of the government. This is contrary to the Constitution and the law.”

Abu Dhabi and a transitional council spokesman have yet to respond to Reuters requests for comment.

The separatist movement is part of a Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to restore Hadi’s government to power after the Houthis overthrew it from the capital Sanaa in late 2014.

But the separatists are seeking independence and turned against the government in early August, to take control of Aden, which the government is based temporarily. Southern forces have clashed with government forces in other areas of the south as they seek to extend their influence.

On Thursday, separatists staged a march in Aden in which thousands of Yemenis took part in support of the UAE. The Gulf state publicly intervened last week to support the separatists with air strikes on government forces as it tried to regain control of Aden, forcing it to withdraw.

Saudi Arabia has called on both sides to refocus on fighting the Houthis, who control Sanaa and most major urban centers. Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen on Friday urged both sides to commit to dialogue and avoid bloodshed.

But both sides are massing troops and preparing for the battle, local officials said. In the oil-producing Shabwa province, government forces are preparing to recapture Abyan and Aden.

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