Clashes in oil-rich Shabwa put Yemen’s new Council of Presidents to the test

DUBAI, Aug 11 (Reuters) – Yemen’s new Presidential Council is under pressure this week over clashes between nominal allies in oil-rich Shabwa, threatening Saudi Arabia’s efforts to strengthen an anti-Houthi coalition and potentially complicating international peace efforts.

Fighting in the south between forces from rival factions of the Political Leadership Council (PLC), established in April, prompted member Abdullah al-Alimi to quit, but he was persuaded to reverse his decision to stabilize the PLC, a source close to Alimi said.

Local media also reported Alimi’s resignation late Wednesday amid three days of clashes in Shabwas Ataq between forces from the UAE-backed Giants Brigade and those from the Islah party, to which Alimi is affiliated.

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The fighting, with authorities reporting deaths with no number, was the fiercest in Yemen since April, when a UN-backed ceasefire was agreed between the Riyadh-led coalition and the Houthi group, de facto authorities in the north extended twice until October 2nd. It has largely held up.

PLC chief Rashad al-Alimi said in a statement Wednesday that the Shabwa confrontation “is dragging us into conflict and far from the spirit of consensus” and that he acted to “root out strife” by targeting some military leaders in the province dismissed and an army formed a committee to investigate the violence.

The eight-member PLC assumed powers from the internationally-recognized president-in-exile under Saudi auspices in April, but analysts say it’s uncertain whether he can maintain cohesion given the competing agendas of its members. Continue reading

Saudi Arabia, which has struggled to hold Yemeni factions together as part of the anti-Houthi alliance, is exhausted from a costly war that has fueled tensions with the United States.

The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis expelled the Saudi-backed government from the capital, Sana’a, in late 2014.

The United Nations is pushing for a prolonged and expanded ceasefire to pave the way for a permanent ceasefire and negotiations for a political solution to end the conflict that has killed tens of thousands and created a terrible humanitarian crisis.

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Reporting by the Yemen team; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Edited by Bradley Perrett

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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