UAE-trained separatists land on Yemeni island amid dispute- Officials
The UAE is a major partner in a Saudi-led military campaign that is supporting Yemen’s internationally recognised government against Iran-allied rebels, who are in control of the capital Sana’a.
However, ties between the Yemeni government and the UAE have recently soured amid accusations that the UAE is supporting separatists in Yemen.
“More than 100 fighters from the so-called Security Belt [UAE-backed southern forces] arrived on Monday at Socotra on the pretext of protecting it.
“This is unacceptable,’’ a Yemeni government official told dpa on condition of anonymity.
According to the official, the fighters arrived aboard a UAE vessel carrying the flag of Yemeni separatists.
Another government official confirmed the UAE-backed militiamen’s landing on Socotra, located near key shipping routes.
“This militia and others are supported, trained and armed by the Emirates, which claims to have come to Yemen to back the government,’’ Mokhtar al-Rahbi, an advisor to the Yemeni information minister, said in a tweet.
“What is happening is the contrary. It’s an attempt to destroy legitimacy,’’ al-Rahbi said, referring to the internationally recognised government based in the southern city of Aden.
The separatists’ reported landing comes days after the head of the Socotra local council, Ramzy Mahrus, warned against sending militias, saying such a move would trigger feuds in the archipelago.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash dismissed reports that his country had dispatched forces this week to the island, calling them “false news.’’
Southern separatists are seeking to re-establish the former South Yemen.
Yemen’s unification took place in 1990, when North and South Yemen formed the present-day Republic of Yemen.
In 2018, the Yemeni government accused the UAE of sending forces and military hardware to Socotra and controlling its airport and harbour.
Socotra, recognised by the UNESCO as a world natural heritage site, is famous for its rich biodiversity.
The island is home to many endemic species, with an estimated one third of its plants being unique.
Socotra is the largest of the Indian Ocean archipelagos and is located about 240 kilometres east of the Horn of Africa.
Yemen, one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, has been locked in a devastating power struggle between the Saudi-backed government and the Houthi rebels since late 2014.
The feud intensified in March 2015, when the Houthis advanced on the southern city of Aden, prompting Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies to start an air campaign against the Shiite group.