Military escalation may 'take peace off the table', says Martin Griffiths
Latest Iranian-made drone incident in Yemen may disrupt UN peace plan
Emirati forces in Yemen intercepted a drone on Wednesday believed to be targeting Arab coalition forces deployed along the western coast of Yemen.
The drone, which the military identified as an Iranian-made Qusaf-1, was carrying explosives. Military sources told Sky News Arabia that the intended target was coalition forces along the Red Sea coast making a push for the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah.
The Arab coalition is preparing for a renewed push to capture Hodeidah from the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
The UAE, as part of the coalition, intervened in the Yemen's civil war that began in March 2015. It backs the internationally-recognised government forces fighting the Iranian-allied Houthi rebels. Iran has denied supplying weapons to the Houthis.
“The Arab Coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, continues to counter these Iranian capabilities which pose a direct threat not only to the Yemeni forces and people, but also threaten the Red Sea Cost shipping lane's movement, along with civilian infrastructure,” UAE state news agency, WAM, reported.
This could disrupt plans by United Nations' special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, to present to the UN Security Council a peace negotiation framework within two months.
"Our concern is that any of these developments may in a stroke, take peace off the table," he said on Tuesday.
"We all need urgently and creatively to find ways to diminish the chances of these game-changing events, upsetting and derailing the hopes of the great majority of Yemenis."
Military movements of forces in Yemen are on the increase and the prospect of intense military operations around the Houthi-held port city of Hodeidah "may soon be forthcoming".
Mr Griffiths, a former British diplomat who replaced Mauritania's Ould Cheikh Ahmed last month, briefed the UN Security Council for the first time on Tuesday.
News of the renewed push to capture Hodeidah prompted Yemenis, living under Houthi control in the city and the surrounding region, to flee their homes.
Reports came out last year that Houthi leadership were intentionally deploying rebel militias in densely populated civilian areas to deter coalition attacks.
Yemenis living in Hodeidah and surrounding areas have also been suffered from a disruption in public service facilities since the rebels captured the governorate in 2015. To help those fleeing the Houthis, the Emirates Red Crescent distributed on Tuesday relief aid to families who have taken refuge in the Shabwa province, which is under coalition control.
The ERC's relief efforts came in response to calls for help by the displaced, and are part of UAE efforts to relieve the suffering of Yemenis.
Mohammed Al Neyadi, head of ERC in Shabwa, highlighted the importance of the latest relief work in helping displaced families by providing them with their basic daily needs.
A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in the conflict in Yemen in 2015, backing the internationally-recognised government forces fighting Iran-allied Houthi rebels. Iran has denied supplying weapons to the Houthis.
Both sides came together to discuss why they failed to reach an agreement. Mr Griffiths, however, is afraid that military escalation might derail a peace plan, again.
Yemen's UN Ambassador Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany denied this, however, saying "we don't have the intention to advance on Hodeidah".
Coalition and Yemeni forces have made territorial gains in recent months against the Houthi rebels in an armed push moving northward from the Bab Al Mandab strait toward Hodeidah on the Red Sea, where 80 per cent of Yemen's crucial food imports arrive.
In January Houthis threatened to blockade the port city if coalition forces continued their push towards the Red Sea coast city.
The war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than two million and driven the country to the verge of famine.
The Houthis have repeatedly fired missiles at Saudi Arabia, which the United States and UN experts say were of Iranian origin — a claim Tehran denies.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said on Tuesday she would continue to push the Security Council for accountability.
"To achieve enduring peace in Yemen, Iran must stop its interference and its violations of the arms embargo this Council imposed," Ms Haley told the council.