Tue - 03 Aug 2021 - 03:25 AM ،،،

 The independence of the South remains our strategic objective, the President of the Southern Transitional Council (STC), Commander-in-Chief of Southern Armed Forces, Aidroos Qassem al-Zubaidi said in an interview with the French daily Le Figaro.

LE FIGARO: The Riyadh Agreement provides for the creation of power-sharing government made up of the legitimate Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC), why it has not been implemented?

AL-ZUBAIDI: The agreement is in its implementation stage. Gains have been made with the formation of the power-sharing government, appointment of ministers and some governors. Certainly, several ministers, who left Aden were unable to return because they do not have the financial support of the government that does not pay civil service salary. For example, the Ministry of Defense does not pay military personnel salaries. We're experiencing many difficulties. The international community has to exercise its pressure and also to help the power-sharing government.

LE FIGARO: Did the Arab Coalition create obstacles in your path with a view to preventing the Southerners from making progress towards their independence?

AL-ZUBAIDI: We expected to find such problems. We announced self-administration of the South last year to address issues relating to the breakdown of essential public services and personnel's unpaid salaries in the absence of government. By announcing self-administration rule in the south we have been criticized by everyone, especially the French ambassador to Yemen. The Arab coalition did not create obstacles in our path, it is rather the hacked legitimacy, which is unable to carry out its duties, it is in a state of catastrophic failure.

LE FIGARO: Is this the reason why we haven't seen any pictures of President Hadi in Aden or even the national flag of Yemen in your office?

AL-ZUBAIDI: We respect President Hadi, but the legitimacy is hacked. Pictures of President Hadi are hung in the capital Aden, but we are against hanging the Yemeni flag. The Yemeni flag belongs to the North and its capital is Sanaa.

LE FIGARO: You rescinded a declaration of self-rule last year, does the same thing go with the independence of the South?

AL-ZUBAIDI: We are moving forward on the path of full administrative independence. We are not seeking the secession from Yemen. In fact, the truth of the matter which the international community must know that South Yemen (People's Democratic Republic of Yemen) was recognized as independent state until 1990 and it remains a strategic goal that we can not back out of it. Our ultimate goal is to return to the pre-1990 situation.  

LE FIGARO: Is this possible with only three provinces under your control?

AL-ZUBAIDI: The South with all its governorates will return. If there were a referendum on independence, more than 90% of the Southerners would support independence.

LE FIGARO: The situation is deteriorating between you and the legitimate government forces in some southern governorates, are we heading towards another war between the local allies of the Saudi-led Arab Coalition?

AL-ZUBAIDI: We are ready to wage a war against terrorists, Al-Qaeda (AQAP) and Daesh (ISIS) but we do not want a fratricidal fighting. We are in a dialogue and negotiations under the auspices of Saudi Arabia.

LE FIGARO: How do you explain the joining of the Muslim Brotherhood (Islah Party) into terrorist groups despite the fact that they are within the government?

AL-ZUBAIDI: During the Riyadh Agreement talks, we said terrorists have infiltrated the legitimate government, but no one listened to us. The problem is that the international community, and even the United States, have recognized Islah as a political party. If our first enemy are the Houthis, the other enemy is the Muslim Brotherhood, they are the enemies of the whole world.  

LE FIGARO:  What is the threat posed by AQAP and ISIS?

AL-ZUBAIDI: The military operations led by the southern forces in partnership with the Arab Coalition forces have weakened AQAP and ISIS, but they are still a threat. They move freely in Marib, al-Baidah and Shabwa where they have training camps.

LE FIGARO: What do you expect from France?

AL-ZUBAIDI: We hope to establish a strong partnership with France in the economy and in combating terrorism that even hit France. We want France to play, as a strong power in the European Union, an important role in Yemen. France has its own interests; oil and gas. We are ready to promote good relations with France and to help defend and preserve its interests.

LE FIGARO: Does the United Arab Emirates run a secret prison in Balhaf liquefaction plant which is operated by the French oil and energy group Total?

AL-ZUBAIDI:  We do not have any information on that question. There are just rumours that were being circulated and sustained by Brotherhood-affiliated groups. However, we are well aware that there are terrorist threats in that region.     

The interview conducted by the French journalist, Georges Malbrunot, a senior reporter for Le Figaro and Middle East specialist. 

Translated by Maher THABET