UAE rejects support claims for separatist seizure of Yemen's Aden

Demonstrators in Yemen's second city Aden took to the streets after its seizure by separatist forces, waving flags of the formerly independent South Yemen and of the UAE (AFP Photo/Murad SAID)

Abu Dhabi (AFP) - The UAE on Wednesday rejected accusations it supported Yemeni separatists in their seizure of interim capital Aden, as the government refused talks with secessionists until they fully withdraw.

"We regret hearing today allegations directed against the UAE regarding developments in Aden, which we categorically reject," the UAE's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, Saud Al-Shamsi, wrote on Twitter.

The UAE, a key partner in the Saudi-led military coalition backing the government against northern-based Huthi rebels, "is exerting all efforts to de-escalate the situation in Yemen", he added.

The UAE-trained Security Belt Forces, dominated by pro-independence Southern Transitional Council (STC) fighters, ousted loyalists from the port city earlier this month.

The clashes in the capital of formerly independent South Yemen left around 40 people dead, according to the UN.

Separatist forces withdrew from a number of state institutions under pressure from the Saudi-led coalition, but kept key military positions.

Tensions escalated on Tuesday as STC fighters drove government troops out of two military camps along the coast from Aden.

STC head Aidarus al-Zubaidi arrived in the Saudi city of Jeddah on Tuesday night at the invitation of the Saudi foreign ministry, for talks to resolve the standoff.

But Yemen's Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad al-Hadhrami said on Twitter Wednesday that the government "will not take part in discussions with the (STC)... unless it withdraws from positions it has seized" and hands over all the weapons it captured from government troops.

South Yemen was an independent state from 1967 until it merged with the north in 1990.

Four years later, an armed secession bid ended in occupation by northern forces, giving rise to resentments which persist to this day.

The Yemeni government took Aden as its de facto capital after losing Sanaa to the Huthis in 2014 -- a takeover which sparked a Saudi-led intervention the following year.

The fighting has since killed tens of thousands of people and pushed the country to the brink of famine.

The latest spike in tensions between separatists and pro-government forces constrains their cooperation against the Iran-aligned Huthis.

The Yemeni government, which has denounced an Emirati-backed "coup", said Tuesday the UAE was "fully responsible for the armed rebellion" and urged it to stop backing "this militia".

"The armed rebellion... is supported financially, logistically and with the knowledge of the UAE," Yemen's permanent representative at the UN, Abdullah al-Saadi, said in comments carried by state media.

"If it were not for the full support of the UAE, this rebellion would not have taken place," he told the UN Security Council.

The UN's Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths warned Tuesday that the war-torn country faced re-partition in the absence of an urgent deal to end decades of conflict.

Griffiths headed to the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Wednesday to meet with Huthi rebel officials, according to a UN source.

Yemen's conflict has sparked what the UN labels the world's worst humanitarian crisis.