Saudi forces take control of Aden

Yemenis hold portraits of Saudi Arabian and Emirati leaders during a demonstration in Aden last month. Saudi Arabian forces now control the city. (File photo: AFP)

DUBAI — Saudi Arabian forces have taken over control of Yemen's southern port of Aden as part of efforts to end a stand-off between the Arab Coalition-backed Yemeni government and Southern Transiitional Council (STC), four sources familiar with the matter said.

Last week the United Arab Emirates, Riyadh's main partner in a Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen's Houthi group, started withdrawing troops from Aden, seemingly to pave the way for a deal to end the local standoff.

The STC are part of the Sunni Muslim coalition that intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to try to restore the government of President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi, which was ousted from the capital, Sanaa, in 2014 by the Houthis, who are aligned with Iran.

In August, the STC, which seeks self-rule in the south, turned on Hadi's government and seized its interim base of Aden, sparking wider clashes that opened a new front in the war.

Saudi Arabia has in the past week deployed more forces to replace Emirati troops at Aden airport and military bases in the city, two Yemeni officials told Reuters.

An official handover to a Saudi commander took place last week under which he would oversee security in the city and its suburbs, two other sources familiar with the matter said.

Saudi Arabia has been hosting indirect talks for a month between Hadi's government and STC. Sources had said the two sides were close to agreeing a Saudi proposal to give the STC seats in the Cabinet and place STC forces under government command.

The STC security force said the UAE "has withdrawn" from Al-Anad airbase, Yemen's largest located north of Aden, the southern city's international airport and a port "and handed them over to Saudi troops".

Saudi Arabia may have decided to unify the forces behind Hadi before responding to an offer by the Houthis to stop aiming missiles and drones at Saudi Arabia if the coalition halts air strikes on Yemen.

Iran, which Saudi Arabia blames for an attack on its oil facilities claimed by the Houthis, has said it views the Houthi offer "positively".

Progress on both tracks would boost United Nations efforts to restart peace talks. The war has killed tens of thousands and pushed millions to the brink of famine. — Agencies