The Arab coalition urged a Yemeni separatist group to rescind its declaration of self-rule in the south of the country, saying it was an “escalatory action” at a time when all parties should focus on confronting the novel coronavirus.

The move by the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) threatens to renew conflict between the STC and the internationally recognized government, nominal allies under the coalition, even as the United Nations tries to secure a permanent nationwide ceasefire.

Yemen's internationally recognized government warned of “catastrophic consequences” after the STC early on Sunday declared emergency rule in southern governorates including Aden, the interim seat of the government that was ousted from the capital, Sanaa, by the Houthi rebel movement in late 2014.

“The Coalition urges for an immediate end to any steps contrary to the Riyadh Agreement, and work rapidly toward its implementation,” the alliance said in a statement, referring to a power-sharing deal brokered by Saudi Arabia in November.

It voiced support for the Saudi-backed government and said implementation of the deal would form a “competent government” based in Aden to tackle the novel coronavirus, recent flooding and other economic and developmental challenges.

The Arab coalition has already announced a unilateral truce prompted by a UN plea to focus on the coronavirus pandemic. The Iran-backed Houthis have not accepted it and violence has continued.

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia’s main coalition partner, is opposed to the decision of the STC and urged full implementation of the Riyadh agreement, minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said on Monday.

While Yemen has reported only one confirmed coronavirus case, aid groups fear a catastrophic outbreak should it spread among a malnourished population in a country with a shattered health system.

The United Nations is trying to convene virtual talks on the truce, coordinated coronavirus efforts and confidence-building steps to restart negotiations to end the war that has killed more than 100,000.