(Bloomberg) -- Yemen’s government vowed to confront a “coup” attempt by separatist forces it said were backed by the United Arab Emirates, in a sign that a conflict casting a shadow over a crucial alliance between the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia is set to escalate.
The internationally-backed government, meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh, said it will use “all means” to restore order and blamed the U.A.E. for “the armed rebellion by the so-called Southern Transitional Council,” which backs the division of Yemen.
The U.A.E. denied the charge.
Clashes between STC forces and government troops spread to other parts of southern Yemen on Tuesday despite Saudi efforts to halt the conflict and refocus efforts on battling Iranian-backed rebels in northern Yemen. The infighting is threatening to tear apart a country already reeling from one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
Martin Griffiths, the UN Yemen special envoy, told the Security Council on Tuesday that the fragmentation of Yemen “is becoming a stronger and more pressing threat” and that the peace process was more urgent than ever.
“There is no time to lose,” Griffiths said. “The stakes are becoming too high for the future of Yemen, the Yemeni people and indeed the wider region.”
The conflict is also raising questions over whether an alliance between Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. will remain intact. The two countries are a linchpin in U.S. efforts to contain Iran’s influence in the Middle East.
The Yemeni government called on Saudi Arabia to back its efforts to end the rebellion. A delegation from the Yemeni separatists traveled to Jeddah on Tuesday for talks with the internationally-recognized administration of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Nizar Haitham, the STC spokesman, said in a phone interview.
Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. entered the Yemen war in 2015 to restore an allied government ousted by the Iranian-backed Houthis, who come from Yemen’s north. The push by the southern separatists threatens the Hadi government.
In a statement to the United Nations Security Council, the Yemeni government said the attacks wouldn’t have occurred “without the full backing” of the U.A.E.
In response, the deputy UN permanent representative of the Gulf state denied his government’s involvement and said it would do its best to help de-escalate the conflict, Sky News Arabia reported.
Fighting erupted between forces controlled by the STC and the administration of Hadi in Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province in Yemen’s south, and nearby, local media and residents said, with the separatists seizing a military camp. It followed intense clashes this month in the port city of Aden, where the Hadi government is based.
“I hope that all Yemeni stakeholders, from all parts of the country, take events in Aden as a clear sign that the current conflict must be brought to an end – swiftly and peacefully, and in a manner, which addresses the needs of Yemenis across the country,” Griffiths said during a video address from Amman, Jordan.
Earlier, he said on Twitter that he condemned “the unacceptable efforts by the Southern Transitional Council to take control of state institutions.”
(Updates with U.A.E. reponse in third and 11th paragraphs.)
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