SANAA, Yemen — A former Yemeni governor, recently sacked by the president, departed the southern city of Aden to Saudi Arabia on Friday after forming a separatist council rejected by Yemen’s internationally-recognized government, Yemeni officials said.
Aidarous al-Zubaidi, along with ex-Cabinet Minister Hani Bin Braik, both known to be close to the United Arab Emirates, were invited by Saudi officials in the latest bid to ease tensions between President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the UAE, a key member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen, known as Houthis, since 2015.
Relations between Hadi and the UAE have been tense over allegations that the Emiratis are offering patronage to southern Yemeni politicians campaigning for secession, as well as what the president perceives as UAE violations of his country’s sovereignty.
Al-Zubaidi ‘s council, known as the “transitional political council of the south,” was formed after thousands of pro-secessionist Yemenis rallied in his support, but was seen by Hadi’s government as an act that “targets the country’s interests, its future and social fabric.”
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman tried to intervene to calm tensions, meeting with Hadi last weekend to smooth things over between him and the UAE, Yemeni officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
It’s unclear if Salman made any progress.
Aden has been the seat of Hadi’s government since 2014, when the Houthis forced him out after seizing the capital, Sanaa.