UAE plays down row with Saudi Arabia after separatist takeover of Aden

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — The United Arab Emirates on Monday played down a row with its ally Saudi Arabia over Yemen after Abu Dhabi-backed separatists seized the city of Aden, the seat of the Riyadh-backed government.

But the UAE has stopped short of calling on southern fighters to relinquish control of Yemen’s coastal city, as Saudi Arabia wants to favor President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government.

The Sunni-led coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, has cracked after more than four years of fighting in support of Hadi’s internationally recognized government against the Iranian-allied Houthi group.

The Houthis control the capital Sanaa and the most populous region. Hadi lives in Saudi Arabia but his government, troops and allied parties ran Aden until the separatists took over government positions over the weekend.

The war in Yemen since 2015 has killed tens of thousands and pushed the country to the brink of famine.

Saudi Arabia strongly backs Hadi after separatists seized government military bases and besieged the nearby semi-empty presidential palace in Aden on Saturday.

Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, met Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Mecca on Monday in an apparent effort to stem damage to the alliance and support the Houthis, their common enemy, as well as Iran.

The UAE News Agency quoted the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi as saying after his meeting with the Saudi King and Crown Prince that the UAE and Saudi Arabia are calling on “the conflicting Yemeni parties to prevail the language of dialogue and reason and the interest of Yemen.”

The alliance has vowed more strikes to flush out the southern separatists after bombing an area under their control on Sunday.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia’s main military ally on the ground for most of the war, has reduced its coalition forces since June amid Western pressure to end the war.

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi said that relations between the two Gulf countries remain strong and that they “stand together with strength and determination in the same trench in the face of forces that threaten the security of the countries of the region.”

– Emergency summit –

The separatist leader and head of the southern council, Aidroos al-Zubaidi, agreed to an emergency summit in Saudi Arabia to discuss the Aden crisis.

He said his fighters were still supporting the coalition against the Houthis, who drove Hadi out of Sanaa in late 2014.

But he has not vowed to pull his troops out of government buildings they seized after clashes that killed 40 people, including civilians.

The United Nations and other organizations have withdrawn some of their staff from Aden.
In New York, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on Monday, “We reduce the number of our staff in Aden until we can determine whether we can safely perform all our tasks again.”

WFP spokesman Herve Fairuzel told Reuters in Geneva that WFP had withdrawn 17 UN staff and 21 other people from Aden aboard a ship. He said six WFP staff were still in the Yemeni city.

“Despite the calm, people are still worried,” Aden resident Adil Mohammed told Reuters on Monday. We don’t know where things are going.”

He said electricity and water services had returned but could be cut again if the crisis continued.

Zubaidi said the separatists, who want independence for the south, had no choice but to take Aden after a deadly Houthi missile strike on southern forces earlier this month.

The separatists accuse Hadi’s ally of complicity in the strike, which the party denies.

Violence has surged elsewhere in Yemen after the Houthis stepped up rocket and drone attacks on Saudi cities.

The alliance said it attacked Houthi targets in the northern Yemeni province of Hajjah on Sunday. The coalition said it was investigating civilian deaths.

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