UAE defends deployment in Yemen’s Socotra

Hundreds of UAE troops were deployed to Socotra island on April 30.
Sunday 13/05/2018
A map locating Socotra island in Yemen.
A map locating Socotra island in Yemen.

LONDON - Tensions between the United Arab Emirates and elements of the internationally recognised government of Yemen flared over the latter’s accusations that the UAE deployed forces on a Yemeni island without consent.

The contention relates to Socotra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a population of 60,000 in the Arabian Sea. Hundreds of UAE troops were deployed to the island on April 30.

“The recent military measures by the UAE forces in the island of Socotra are unjustifiable,” a statement by the Yemeni government said. “The situation on the island today, after the takeover of the airport and harbour, reflects the state of disagreement between the legitimate government and the brothers in the UAE.”

It labelled the dispute an issue of national sovereignty and asked Saudi Arabia to intervene. The UAE has been part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen.

“The UAE plays a parallel role in the Yemeni island of Socotra to maintain security and stability, support development projects and help the people of the island,” the UAE Foreign Ministry said, adding that its military presence “comes within the efforts of the Arab coalition to support the legitimacy at this critical stage in the history of Yemen.”

The Emirates was replying to statements made by Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Dagher, known for his affiliation with the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, known as Al-Islah party, which the UAE said is behind the dispute related to its presence in Socotra.

The UAE accused the Muslim Brotherhood of “instigating such malignant media campaigns against the UAE and its integral role in establishing peace and security and restoring legitimacy to Yemen.”

“Such heinous campaigns led by Muslim Brotherhood in relation to the Socotra Island fit within a long and recurring scenario to distort the image of the UAE and its efficient contribution to the Arab coalition efforts against the coup perpetrators led by Houthi militias,” the ministry added.

“We have historic and family links with the residents of Socotra and we will back them during Yemen’s ordeal, which was sparked by the Houthis,” UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash posted on his official Twitter account.

The Emirati statement referenced the turbulent relationship between it and the internationally recognised government led by Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi over his support of Al-Islah party while periodically clashing with the UAE-supported Southern Transitional Council (STC).

“Currently, the main centre of influence within the Yemeni government is indeed the Muslim Brotherhood movement and periodically it likes to trigger these side battles with the dominant political forces in the south, and sometimes the Arab alliance fighting in its favour,” STC spokesman Salem Thabet al-Awlaki said.

“The motivation behind this is a quest for domination and to continue their quest for influence as they have always tried in the last quarter century.”