UAE's Gargash says Socotra presence 'not strategic'

The statement comes after criticism over claims the UAE was establishing a base on the Yemeni archipelago

A view shows Hadibu city on the capital island of Socotra November 21, 2013. The Socotra islands, in the Arabian Sea 380 km south of mainland Yemen and 80 km west of the Horn of Africa, harbour many unique species of birds and plants and gained UNESCO recognition in July 2008 as a world natural heritage site. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi (YEMEN  - Tags: TRAVEL CITYSCAPE) - GM1E9BM01IV01
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The UAE does not have territorial ambitions on the Yemeni islands of Socotra, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs has said.

Dr Anwar Gargash said the UAE has a humanitarian role on Yemen's islands, where it has worked since 2012 on development projects and in providing aid.

"The UAE’s role in Socotra is not strategic," he told state news agency Wam on the sidelines of the annual Globsec forum in Bratislava Slovakia. "The UAE does not have any ambitions on the archipelago. It is a Yemeni territory," he said.

Earlier this month, the UAE was criticised on news of it establishing a military presence on Socotra.

Dr Gargash said the UAE “should have communicated more” ahead of that move.


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“Because Socotra was far away from the conflict in Yemen, we took a decision not to communicate what we were doing there," he said.

Dr Gargash earlier this month lashed out at critics of the UAE.

He said there were entities that sought to undermine the efforts of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed rebels in Yemen at the request of Yemeni President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi’s internationally-recognised government.

He said the statement made by Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher criticising the UAE was blown out of proportion.

"The criticism that we have received in Socotra revolves around the same people that will criticise the UAE time and again. Clearly, our role in Socotra is about humanitarian development, and we continue to do so to support this island community."

The UAE increased its humanitarian efforts on the island after Cyclone Chapala struck the archipelago in 2015.

"Since then over 40 aid projects involving providing subsidies to fishermen, improving harbours and infrastructure, as well as utility development have taken place," he said.

The most recent efforts involved the Emirates Red Crescent deploying three aid ships loaded with tonnes of food supplies to assist the community during Ramadan.

The Minister said he believed the Socotra episode was now closed but said further criticism of UAE foreign policy was inevitable.

"Why is this happening?" he asked. "Because the UAE has been active and effective."

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates, Anwar Gargash, speaks at an event at Chatham House in London, Britain July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
<p>Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash&nbsp;made the statements at the Globsec annual forum in Bratislava on May 18, 2018. Neil Hall / Reuters</p>

Meanwhile, the capital of Yemen's government-in-exile, Aden, was hit by strong winds over the weekend as tropical cyclone Sagar lashed the southern coast.

Authorities ordered residents to leave properties on the shoreline of the southern port city, while heavy rainfall caused flooding in several parts of the capital.

The unseasonable cyclone has since moved towards Somalia and Djibouti.