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Saudi and UAE leaders meet to heal Yemen rift

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Leaders of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia met in Riyadh on Monday in an effort to heal a rift in their Western-backed military alliance, which has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen since 2015.

The Saudi-led Sunni Muslim alliance became fractured after insurgents linked to Yemen's Southern Transit Council (STC) separatist movement — which was armed and trained by the UAE — on Saturday took effective control of Aden, the temporary seat of Yemen's Saudi-supported government.

Saudi Arabia on Monday affirmed its support for Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is currently based in the Saudi capital.

Read more: UAE scaling back military role in Yemen conflict

Helping the Houthis

The Saudi-led alliance has been fighting a proxy war on behalf of Hadi's ousted Yemini government against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which controls vast swathes of Yemen's north, including the capital Sanaa.

There are fears that further damage to the Saudi-led Sunni alliance would boost their common enemy, the Houthis, and their regional rival Shiite Iran.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan voiced continued solidarity with Saudi Arabia in Yemen and called for talks between Aden's warring parties.

"The UAE and Saudi Arabia call on conflicting Yemeni parties to prioritise dialogue and reason for the interest of Yemen," state news agency WAM quoted him as saying after meeting Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The separatist chief, STC president Aidaroos al-Zubaidi, said his group still supports the coalition against the Houthis. Although he did not commit to withdrawing forces from government sites, he indicated he would attend a proposed emergency summit in Saudi Arabia.

The UAE did not directly ask the STC to cede control of Aden.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are also on opposite sides of the war in Syria.

kw/aw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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