UAE to 'exert every effort' to de-escalate fighting in southern Yemen

Country's deputy permanent representative to the UN highlights role it has played in liberating parts of Yemen from Houthi rebels

Yemenis drive down a street in Aden's Mualla region on August 18, 2019.  / AFP / Nabil HASAN
Powered by automated translation

The UAE's deputy permanent representative and charge d'affaires to the UN has pledged that the country will exert every effort to de-escalate matters in southern Yemen.

Speaking to the Security Council in New York on Tuesday, Saud Al Shamsi highlighted the important role the UAE has played in liberating areas of Yemen from the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

“My country has in an official statement expressed extreme concern over the armed confrontations in Aden between the legitimate Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council, and it has called for calm, non-escalation and the preservation of the security and safety of Yemeni citizens," Mr Al Shamsi said.

"This is the same position it has adopted as a main partner in the Arab Coalition, led by the sister kingdom Saudi Arabia.

“The United Arab Emirates will exert every effort to de-escalate matters in southern Yemen.

“We must not forget the important part my country has played in the liberation of Aden and most of the country occupied by the Houthi rebellion.

"The UAE has prevented the terrorist parties from taking advantage of the security vacuum during this critical and difficult phase of Yemen's life, and the UAE has managed to play a great part in reconstructing the liberated areas.”

Mr Al Shamsi reminded the council that the UAE’s “generous support” helped to neutralise the threat of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

His words came as Martin Griffiths, the UN's special envoy for Yemen, said the recent violence in Aden increased the chances of a resurgence of Aqap and others, such as ISIS.

Also speaking to the Security Council, Mr Griffiths thanked the Arab Coalition for its efforts to temper the situation in Yemen, which has suffered from civil war since 2015.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have called for dialogue between pro-government Yemeni groups and the Southern Transitional Council, with a meeting planned in Jeddah welcomed by the UN, the US and other leading world powers.

“I am grateful to all those member states, including members of this council, who have called for restraint and dialogue,” Mr Griffiths said.

“In particular, I welcome the efforts of the [Arab] Coalition to restore calm and the efforts exerted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to convene a dialogue in Jeddah.”

In new clashes overnight, STC forces took full control of bases belonging to pro-government special forces and military police in Abyan, a southern governorate.

The commanders handed their positions over to the STC on Tuesday and left with their men.

Mr Griffiths said the situation was changing with great pace, but he described the latest fighting as provocative and said it proved the pressing need for talks to restore calm.

“The fragmentation of Yemen is becoming a stronger and more pressing threat,” Mr Griffiths told the Security Council by video link from Amman.

"This makes our efforts in the Yemeni peace process more urgent than ever. There is no time to lose. We cannot underestimate the risks that these events pose for the future of the country."

Scores were killed and hundreds wounded in the clashes in Aden earlier this month, spurring the calls for de-escalation from the Arab Coalition that is fighting the Houthis.

Aden is the temporary base of Yemen’s government, a status conferred after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa in late 2014.

But Mr Griffiths said recent actions were unacceptable.

"A continuation of this current situation is simply untenable. At this time it is difficult to know where events will lead us," he said.

Saudi King Salman and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, met in Makkah last week to discuss the situation in Yemen.

In a statement afterwards they reaffirmed their call for parties to “prioritise dialogue and reason in the interest of Yemen and its people”.

On Sunday, STC leader Gen Aidarous Al Zubaidi said he was committed to a ceasefire in Aden and to taking part in Saudi-brokered peace talks with the government of Yemeni President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.

The government also affirmed “its commitment to respect the call of the Saudi-led coalition to a ceasefire”.

STC spokesman Saleh Alnoud later said the group was looking for an equal seat at the table in peace talks, a rejoinder to the group’s exclusion from the UN-brokered summit in Stockholm last December that led to a limited ceasefire agreement in the southern port city of Hodeidah.

Only representatives of the Houthis and Mr Hadi’s administration took part.