UAE calls for end to escalation in Yemen’s Aden

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed says efforts should focus on confronting Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels, UAE remains an active member of the Saudi-led coalition.
Saturday 10/08/2019
Foreign Affairs Ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, speaks to the press in Abu Dhabi, March 6. (AFP)
Foreign Affairs Ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, speaks to the press in Abu Dhabi, March 6. (AFP)

DUBAI – The United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan called on Saturday for an end to the military escalation in Yemen’s southern city of Aden, the UAE official news agency WAM reported.

The UAE foreign minister expressed “deep concern” over the violence in Aden and called for “de-escalation”. He said that efforts should focus on confronting Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels, reiterating that the UAE is an active member of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. 

“Sheikh Abdullah called for a responsible and serious dialogue to end the differences and work on unity in this delicate phase while maintaining security and stability.” the official Emirati news agency WAM reported.

He said the UAE was “exerting all efforts to calm and de-escalate the situation in Aden”, saying the two camps should focus their efforts on fighting the Houthis not each other.

Sheikh Abdullah also called on the UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths “to make all possible efforts to end the escalation in Aden”, the statement added.

Southern separatists gained ground across Yemen’s second city Aden on Saturday and surrounded the presidential palace as they fought fierce battles with government forces, military and security sources said.

Deadly fighting raging in Aden since Wednesday is pitting unionist forces loyal to the internationally recognised government against a force that supports it but is dominated by fighters seeking renewed independence for the south.

The southern force, known as the Security Belt, overran three military barracks belonging to government forces and were surrounding the presidential palace, sources close to the Security Belt said.

Fierce clashes were also taking place in several other parts of the city.

Southern Yemen was an independent state until 1990.

The Security Belt is a force trained by the United Arab Emirates, a key partner in a Saudi-led military coalition which intervened in Yemen more than four years ago to prop up the Yemeni government in the face of the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels.

On Thursday, the Yemeni government urged Saudi Arabia and the UAE to put pressure on the Security Belt to avoid a military escalation in Aden.

The UN human rights office this week accused the Security Belt force of “reportedly carrying out and enabling retaliatory attacks against civilians” from northern Yemen.

Griffiths wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that he was “alarmed by the military escalations in Aden”.

The fighting has left at least 18 dead and scores of wounded, medics and security sources have said.

On Friday, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) tweeted that it had treated 75 people in one of its hospitals in Aden since Thursday night.

The Norwegian Refugee Council said the battles had trapped civilians in their homes with dwindling supplies of food and water. The aid group said prolonged fighting in Aden, a gateway for commercial and aid supplies, could impact efforts to tackle the humanitarian crisis gripping the rest of the country.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had on Saturday urged the parties to cease hostilities and engage in “inclusive dialogue”.

The United Nations is trying to de-escalate tensions countrywide as it tries to implement a peace deal in the main port city of Hodeidah further to the north, to pave the way for wider political talks to end the war.

The Houthi rebels, who have stepped up cross-border missile and drone strikes on Saudi Arabia, control Sanaa, Hodeidah and other major urban centres while the government holds Aden and a string of western coastal towns.

(AW and agencies)