Yemeni government and separatists to sign deal ending Aden standoff
Yemen's Saudi-backed government and southern separatists are expected to announce a deal on Thursday to end a power struggle in the southern port of Aden that fractured an Arab coalition battling the Iran-aligned Houthi group, officials said.
The UAE-backed separatist Southern Transition Council is nominally allied to the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, but the two sides fell out in August, with the separatists seizing control of Aden.
Saudi Arabia has hosted indirect talks between them to rebuild the coalition fighting against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that expelled Hadi's government from the capital Sanaa five years ago.
Fighting between pro-Hadi forces and the separatists had opened a new front in the multi-faceted war and complicated United Nations peace efforts.
Yemeni refugees: destination Djibouti
When it comes to refugees, the focus of Western media in recent months has been on the desperate people trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe and those trying to cross the Indian Ocean to reach Indonesia and Malaysia. However, refugees from Yemen are also taking on the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden in an attempt to reach the Republic of Djibouti, one of the world's poorest countries. Qantara.de presents impressions of Markazi refugee camp in Djibouti. All photos by Andreas Stahl
Aiham Ehab Makyam, 21, and Gofran Hussein Mohammed, 22, arrived in Djibouti by boat from Aden in late May. Today, Djibouti is the only neighbouring country that is accepting refugees from Yemen. Crossing the Gulf of Aden is the only way to get there.
Yemeni boat people: many of the Yemeni refugees who arrive by boat in the nation's capital (also called Djibouti) are told to take the ferry to the small town of Obock where Markazi refugee camp is located. Two thirds of the national population live in the city of Djibouti, where the unemployment rate is 50 per cent.
Searching for a better future: Aiham Ehab Makyam, 21, sits in his tent in the UNCHR-hosted refugee camp near Obock in Djibouti. He left his family in Aden after his father told him that he still has a chance of a better future. In Yemen, says Aiham, that is impossible.
Tent city: the UNHCR has provided tents for Markazi refugee camp (pictured here). As of 20 May, the camp was home to 1,055 refugees, but that number is expected to continue to grow rapidly as the conflict in Yemen shows no sign of abating.
Lost childhoods: this photo shows one of the many child refugees in Markazi refugee camp. Many parents have fled to Djibouti with their children. How their childhood will develop is uncertain, but at least they are safe here: after all, the conflict in Yemen has killed over 1,900 people, including 149 children.
Refugee children from Yemen play football in Markazi refugee camp as the sun goes down. According to UNICEF, almost 8 million children in Yemen are suffering from the effects of the conflict and are in need of humanitarian assistance. In Yemen, there is an acute lack of food and drinking water.
Unbearable heat: because of the extreme heat in the tents, many Yemeni refugees in the camp sleep outside. During the day, the temperatures can soar above 40 °C. At night, however, things are little better: temperatures rarely drop below 30 °C. Pictured here: a UNHCR refugee tent in Markazi refugee camp.
Aiham Ehab Makyam sleeps outside his tent. "It is too hot to sleep inside the tent, and as soon the sun starts to go up in the morning, you need to find a place with shadows", he says.
A refugee from Yemen prays outside his tent in Markazi refugee camp near Obock, Djibouti. As of 2 June, the UN estimated that around 16 million people in Yemen were in need of humanitarian assistance.
At night, 21-year-old Aiham Ehab Makyam makes a fire to bring some light to the night-time refugee camp.
Riyadh has been trying to refocus the coalition on fighting the Houthis on its border. The Houthis have repeatedly launched missiles and drone strikes against Saudi cities during the conflict, widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Two officials in Hadi's government told journalists the pact to end the Aden standoff would be signed in Riyadh on Thursday.
STC leader Aidarous al-Zubaidi, who has been involved in the month-long talks in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, headed to Riyadh on Wednesday, according to a post on his Twitter account.
The deal calls for a government reshuffle to include STC, which seeks self-rule in the south and the restructuring of armed forces under Saudi supervision, they said.
Saudi forces took control of Aden after Emirati troops withdrew last week. The move seemingly paved the way for ending the crisis that had exposed differences between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi over how to proceed in the wider war that has been in military stalemate for years.
The UAE already scaled down its presence in Yemen in June as Western pressure mounted to end the conflict that has pushed millions to the brink of famine. But Abu Dhabi retains influence through thousands of Yemeni troops it armed and trained.
Hadi's government has asked the UAE to stop supporting STC. Abu Dhabi criticised Hadi's government as ineffective and distrusts Islamists with whom he is allied.
Resolving the power struggle in the south and easing Houthi-Saudi tensions would aid U.N. efforts to restart peace talks to end the war that has killed tens of thousands.
The Houthis last month offered to stop missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia if the coalition ended air strikes on Yemen. Riyadh has said it views the offer "positively".
The group, which controls Sanaa and most big urban centres, extended the offer after claiming responsibility for a Sept. 14 assault on Saudi oil processing facilities. Riyadh rejected the Houthi claim of responsibility and blames Iran for the attacks, a charge Tehran rejects.
The Houthis deny being puppets of Iran and say they are fighting a corrupt system, pointing to the standoff in Aden as proof Hadi is unfit to rule. (Reuters)