Yemeni factions fail to form a Government

What happened: The internationally-recognised Yemeni Government and southern separatists have failed to meet a deadline to establish a power-sharing government.

  • The Riyadh Agreement, signed on 5 November, said that within 30 days a new 24-member cabinet with equal representation for the southerners should be formed.
  • The agreement was an attempt by Saudi Arabia to end the clash between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC), which had seized control of the city of Aden in August and was distracting the Saudi-led military coalition from its battle against the Houthi rebels.
  • The Riyadh Agreement said the government should return to Aden and sought to reduce intra-Gulf tensions between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which trained and remains close to southern separatist troops.
  • Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik returned to Aden last month but the new Cabinet has yet to materialise, along with other key reforms including integrating secessionists into a central command structure.

Context: Yemen’s conflict erupted in late 2014 when the government was forced out of the capital, Sanaa, by Iran-aligned Houthi, rebels, triggering a Saudi-led military intervention.

  • According to the UNHCR, more than 24.1m people are in need of humanitarian assistance due to the conflict. At least 3.65m people have been displaced since March 2015, with more than 80 per cent of those displaced for more than a year.
  • The death toll had reached 100,000 by the end of October, according to The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (Acled), which included 12,000 civilians. The numbers do not include people who have died in humanitarian disasters caused by the war, particularly starvation. It said 20,000 people had been reported killed this year, making it the second deadliest year of the war after 2018.
  • Acled said direct targeting by the Saudi-led coalition and its allies had been responsible for more than 8,000 civilian deaths since 2015.
  • In October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Iran is supplying the Houthi rebels with missiles that can reach Israel. On Sunday Houthi defence minister Major General Mohammed Al-Atefi claimed to the Al-Masira newspaper, which is aligned with the rebels, that Israel has been involved in the Yemen conflict since it began in 2015 and that “there’s no doubt revenge is coming”.

Looking ahead: The lack of progress since the Riyadh agreement is a blow to those who saw it as a stepping stone towards ending the wider conflict, described by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Elisabeth Kendall, a Yemeni expert from Oxford University described the Riyadh Agreement as “very ambitious … easy to sign but near impossible to implement”. The key issue now is whether the missed deadline was just a delay or if the terms of the agreement are unachievable. If the parties fulfil other parts of the deal, including placing forces from both sides under the authority of the defence and interior ministries, that would be a sign of significant progress.

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