Riyadh pushes for new Yemeni cabinet but Qatar, Turkey block process

Yemeni political sources told The Arab Weekly that the new Yemeni government brought about by the recent understandings on the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement will soon be announced.

This would come in the wake of months of disagreements over whether the political or military parts of the agreement should come first.

The agreement, sponsored by the Saudi government, was signed in November 2019 by the internationally- recognised Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC).

The Yemeni sources, however, did not rule out postponing the announcement until the beginning of next week, so that it does not look like the formation of the government came directly after the meeting between Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.

The sources pointed out that the meeting between Hadi and Prince Khalid on Wednesday evening at the former’s residence in Riyadh was decisive in resolving many outstanding issues.

The Saudi deputy defence minister, who oversees his country’s Yemeni file, confirmed on Twitter following his meeting with the Yemeni president that “The Kingdom’s leadership is keen to achieve stability, security and development for the brotherly Yemeni people, and to move forward to implement the Riyadh Agreement to promote peace and stability and put the interest of Yemenis above all considerations.”

Well-informed Yemeni sources revealed that Prince Khaled bin Salman informed the Yemeni “legitimate” leadership of the need to implement the Riyadh agreement, and that he renewed the guarantees provided by the Arab coalition related to the implementation of the military and security part of the agreement, after the government is announced, in addition to delivering a clear message stating that the coalition was disturbed by the attempts made by some of the parties affiliated with Turkey and Qatar in the “legitimacy camp” to obstruct the formation of the government.

It did not take long for these parties to react to the leaks about the content of the meeting between the Yemeni president and the Saudi deputy defence minister. They countered by declaring that there will be no such thing as a new Yemini government until the Southern Transitional Council (STC) commits to implementing the military part of the Riyadh Agreement. Thus, the fate of the new Yemini government is still caught between Saudi Arabia’s desire to accelerate the process and obstructionist efforts of Qatar and Turkey, where the Muslim Brotherhood leaders are based.

The sources pointed out the increasing activity of the Qatari current in the legitimate government and efforts by some leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen to thwart the Riyadh agreement and push for an open confrontation between government forces and STC forces. There is also a desire to exert political and media pressure on the Yemeni presidency to retreat from the understandings about implementing the terms of the political provisions of the Riyadh agreement, foremost among them the formation of the government headed by Moein Abdul-Malik, and then this government’s supervision of the implementation of the military part in coordination with the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

Informed sources considered that statements by the Yemeni Islah party’s leadership in Turkey rejecting the government’s announcement, in conjunction with news of the departure of a large number of party leaders to Turkey, including prominent Islah figure Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, were aimed at provoking Arab coalition countries and an indication of how deeply Qatar and Turkey have infiltrated the Yemeni government and exerted influence on decision-making in the legitimacy camp.

Yemeni political sources described the undeclared state of conflict — especially regarding the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and the announcement of the faltering new government — between the Arab coalition on the one hand and the Turkey-Qatar axis on the other hand, inside the partisan and administrative structures of the legitimate institutions, as a defining moment that might reshape the map of groupings and alliances within the camp opposing the Houthis.

The Arab coalition is very much concerned with the expansion of the Qatari and Turkish sphere of influence inside the legitimate government’s institutions and its political and partisan components, as well as with the emergence of many anti-coalition voices among government leaders.

Rapid developments in this regard came after increasing indications that the International Organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Qatar and Turkey, intend to escalate tensions in Yemen by relying on the group’s proxies in the country. There was a remarkable shift in media discourse of the Yemeni Brotherhood with all of its wings after Islah party head Mohoammed al-Yadumi announced on Twitter from Turkey that his party opposes the formation of a new government before the implementation of the military and security part of the Riyadh Agreement.

According to Yemeni observers, the position of the head of the Islah party was picked up by the National Alliance of Yemeni Political Parties and Forces, which is largely dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. On Tuesday, the official Yemen News Agency reported that the alliance issued a statement stressing the need to accelerate the formation of the government after implementing the military and security arrangements.

The statement highlighted “the need to accelerate the formation of the government based on the Riyadh Agreement and the mechanism to accelerate its implementation, and the return of the government and the various state institutions to Aden as soon as possible after implementing the military and security arrangements in accordance with the agreement and its acceleration mechanism, and because it would enhance security and stability in the temporary capital, Aden.”

The pressure exerted by the Islah party and the pro-Qatar current revolves around the need to start implementing the military part of the Riyadh Agreement before announcing the government, while the STC asserts that implementing the military and security aspect necessarily means the withdrawal of the Brotherhood’s forces from Abyan and Shabwa governorates.

Arab Weekly sources indicated that the Brotherhood-affiliated Islah Party has created a new dispute over the distribution of ministerial portfolios and the naming of ministers after agreeing on them several times before in an attempt to create pretexts to thwart efforts to form the government and impose candidates affiliated with the Brotherhood as ministers within Hadi’s share of ministerial portfolios or through the quotas of other parties whose political decision is dominated by the Brotherhood.

This article was first published in the Arab Weekly and reprinted here with permission.