UAE announces 'war is over' for Emirati troops in Yemen
The United Arab Emirates has announced that the “war is over” for Emirati troops in Yemen, according to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
Sheikh Mohammed made the announcement via his official Twitter account late on Wednesday evening.
The Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and de facto ruler of the UAE was quoting a speech made by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, who had been speaking at an event on Yemen in the Gulf state on Wednesday.
“It is not the duty of the UAE, nor that of Saudi Arabia to build the modern Yemen. It is absolutely a Yemeni task,” Gargash said, according to Gulf News.
However, in an Arabic tweet also sent from Sheikh Mohammed's account, he quoted Gargash as having said their involvement in the Yemen war was "practically" over.
Translation: Anwar Garghash: Our stance today is clear - the war for our troops is practically over. We are making political arrangements, and our basic role at the present time is to empower Yemenis in the liberated areas.
The Saudi-led coalition has not responded to the announcement.
In his speech Gargash defended the much criticised war in Yemen, saying that Iranian “interference” had left them no choice but to act militarily.
“The Decisive Storm operation [in Yemen] had three goals,” Gargash said. “The first was to bring back the Yemen crisis to the political track, the second to restore the legitimate government of Yemen and the third goal was to counter Iranian interference in the region.”
Arab Gulf states accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who descended from their northern mountain stronghold of Saada and seized control of the capital Sanaa in September 2014.
However, the Houthis, a domestic Yemeni group who have fought battles with the government for decades, have denied receiving backing from the Iranians.
The Saudi-led coalition was launched in March 2015 with the aim of reinstating the ousted government of President Abd Rabbuh Hadi, which had been forced into exile by the Houthi rebels.
It was not immediately clear what the Emirati announcement would mean practically for Yemen, where over 80 percent of the population require some form of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN.
Emirati troops are likely to remain active in Hadramawt province and in the port city of Aden, where regular militant attacks mean they will be engaged in counter-terrorism operations for the foreseeable future.
Despite the announcement of the war ending, unnamed Yemeni security officials told the Associated Press that Emirati troops were on Wednesday still guarding the airport and presidential palace in Aden, from where the returned government of President Hadi has been operating.
The Houthis remain in control of the capital Sanaa and much of northern Yemen, and they continue to lay siege to the strategically key southern city of Taiz, where violence has destroyed urban areas and killed large numbers of civilians.
Gargash, who spoke to a closed audience at Sheikh Mohammed’s royal gathering space, said the UAE will continue “monitoring political arrangements” and “empowering Yemenis in liberated areas”.
“We saw an epic campaign in Yemen. The performance of our air force was astonishing and so was that of the land forces,” he said.
Despite ongoing UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait, fighting continues to rage across Yemen, which is the Arab world’s poorest nation.
At least 80 Emiratis have died fighting in Yemen, according to state-run media outlets. The worst loss was in September last year, when 45 Emirati troops were killed in a Houthi missile attack in Maarib, 120km east of the capital Sanaa.
The UN has reported that at least 2,800 civilians have been killed and over 5,300 injured since the Saudi-led coalition began its military campaign.
All sides in Yemen have been accused of committing serious human rights violations by both the UN and leading rights groups.