Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

UAE and Saudi Arabia: united front in Yemen needed to combat Houthi rebels

Calls come as rebels and government meet over Hodeidah deal to enforce a ceasefire agreement

Fighters from the pro-government Security Belt Forces discuss launching a mortar towards Houthi rebels in an area called Moreys, on the frontline in Yemen's Dhale province. AP, File
Fighters from the pro-government Security Belt Forces discuss launching a mortar towards Houthi rebels in an area called Moreys, on the frontline in Yemen's Dhale province. AP, File

The UAE and Saudi Arabia believe a united front is needed in Yemen to combat the Houthi rebels and reinstate the internationally recognised government, a statement by the Arab Coalition countries said on Sunday.

Talks between the government and the Southern Transitional Council took place last Thursday in Jeddah under the Saudi government’s mediation. The intervention of Riyadh is seeking to end recent fighting in Yemen’s southern provinces.

“We welcome the response of the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council’s call for dialogue,” the statement said.

“We assert the importance of completely halting all military actions, or violations against public and private property.”

The UAE and Saudi Arabia went on to reaffirm their "continued support for the legitimate government of Yemen in its efforts to maintain the integrity of the Yemeni state while defeating the Houthi militias and terrorist organisations operating in Yemen, in addition to curbing Iranian expansionism".

Both countries said that they have been working in close co-ordination with various parties to implement a ceasefire in preparation for constructive dialogue that aims to end the conflict and address its reverberations.

The joint statement concluded with a declaration that the two countries will continue providing humanitarian assistance to Yemeni governorates liberated from Houthi control.

The Southern Transitional Council responded with its own statement, welcoming the UAE and Saudi joint statement. Spokesman Nazar Haitham said “dialogue and peace are what the STC have called for from the start”.

The Saudi-UAE statement came as a joint committee negotiating the redeployment of forces from Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah boarded a UN ship in the Red Sea over the weekend to resume talks over the pullback from the key ports in the city.

Representatives of the government and the Houthi rebels boarded the Antarctic Dream on Saturday night to join the UN representatives on board, Col Wathah Al Dubaish, the spokesperson of the pro-government joint forces on the country’s west coast told The National.

Sunday’s meeting was monitored by the UN Redeployment and Co-ordination Committee, led by Lebanese General Hani Nakhlah – the disengagement observer for the UN committee. He is leading the current round of negotiations after the head of the committee, Danish General Michael Lollesgaard, left his post and returned home in July 2019, Col Al Dubaish said.

The meeting was aiming to discuss setting up a joint operations centre and activating a new procedure for de-escalation in addition to deploying some observers to agreed points where frontline clashes have taken place to strengthen the ceasefire, he said.

Col Al Dubaish said that the UN old observers would work within the soon-to-be-established joint operations centre while the field observers from both parties would work in the areas that have experienced clashes to implement the ceasefire agreed in December last year with assistance from the UN mission.

At UN-led peace talks last December in Sweden, the two sides negotiated an agreement for a ceasefire in Hodeidah to avert a full-scale offensive to capture the city and a troop withdrawal from its key ports, among other confidence-building measures.

Although the agreement was reached, the actual implementation remains to be completed due to a lack of trust between Yemen’s warring sides.

The latest meeting between the two parties in Hodeidah comes as the Houthi rebels continue skirmishes on the city’s outskirts.

“On Saturday, the Houthi militia shelled sites affiliated with the Joint Forces in Al Duraihimi and in the Kilo 16 [supply route] area using mortars,” a military source in Al Amalikah forces, which are deployed in eastern outskirts of the city, told The National.

In the southern districts in Hodeidah, the Iran-backed militia targeted civilian areas of Hais city, indiscriminately firing mortars. A Houthi sniper shot resident Ali Mohammed Taha, 40, when the bullet penetrated the wall of his home and hit him in the side of the face. Medical sources in Hais city told The National that Mr Haha was transferred to a hospital in Al Khokha for treatment.

Separately, the Houthi militia launched an attack on Southern Joint Forces’ positions in northern Al Dhalea province in the early morning on Sunday, Col Haitham Al Shouaibi, a field commander in the force, said.

“The Houthi attack was launched at 1.30am on Sunday targeting our sites in Habeel Al Ushara and in Al Sharifa area on the Hajer front in northern Al Dhalea,” Col Al Shouaibi said. “But the attack was foiled as we launched a counter-attack at the Houthi groups which tried to advance, more than seven Houthi fighters were killed, their bodies are still laying on the frontlines,” Col Al Shouaibi said.

Meanwhile, the Arab Coalition supporting the government of Yemen intercepted a Houthi drone fired from Amran province in central-western Yemen.

Col Turki Al Maliki, the spokesman for the coalition, said on Saturday that the Houthi’s continue to violate international humanitarian law by launching drones and rockets at civilian infrastructure and urban centres in Saudi Arabia.

Updated: September 9, 2019 02:46 AM

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