The Saudi cabinet stressed that conditions in Yemen’s Aden and some southern provinces should return to the way they were before the so-called Southern Transitional Council (STC) declared a self-rule and state of emergency, the state-run SPA news agency reported on Tuesday.
It also noted that emphasis should be on ending any steps contrary to the Riyadh-brokered agreement signed between the two sides last November to end their power struggle in southern Yemen, which has deeply divided the Saudi-led coalition of aggressors.
On the weekend, the UAE-backed STC declared a state of emergency and announced “self-administration rule” in Yemen’s southern regions, including the port city of Aden — which has served as the seat of Yemen’s former Riyadh-allied government during the Saudi-led war.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — whose country has been a staunch backer of the Riyadh-led invasion of Yemen — said on Tuesday Washington was “concerned” over the STC’s measure amid fears over the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the Arabian Peninsula state.
“Such unilateral actions only exacerbate instability in Yemen,” he said in a statement. “They are especially unhelpful at a time when the country is threatened by COVID-19 and also threaten to complicate the efforts of the UN Special Envoy to revive political negotiations” between the self-proclaimed government of former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
He urged the separatists and forces loyal to government of ex-president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to engage “in the political process provided under the Riyadh Agreement.”
A day earlier, the Riyadh-led military alliance similarly urged the STC to rescind its self-rule declaration, saying it was an “escalatory action” at a time all parties should focus on confronting the coronavirus.
“The coalition urges an immediate end to any steps contrary to the Riyadh Agreement, and work rapidly toward its implementation,” it said.
Saudi Arabia, along with a coalition of its vassal states, launched the military aggression on Yemen in a bid to reinstall the Hadi regime and crush the Houthis. However, over five years into the war, the kingdom has achieved neither of its objectives.
The Western-sponsored bombing campaign has plunged Yemen into what the UN says is the world's worst humanitarian crisis and killed more than 100,000 people in the impoverished state.
Yemen announced its first COVID-19 case on April 10, but since then authorities have been unable to track down “patient zero” amid warnings that the country's health system is ill-equipped to handle the outbreak.
‘Virus probably circulating in Yemen’
In another development on Tuesday, the office of the UN aid chief in Yemen said that based on transmission patterns in other countries and given that 17 days have passed since the country reported its first case,“agencies are warning there is now a very real probability that the virus has been circulating undetected and unmitigated within communities.”
“This increases the likelihood of a surge of cases which may quickly overwhelm health capacities,” it said in a statement.
The office further pointed out that 31 of 41 major UN humanitarian assistance programs will scale-down or stop in coming weeks without more money, warning that the funding shortage would compromise efforts to combat the highly contagious virus in Yemen.