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Yemen seeks Interpol arrest warrants for Houthi leaders

The Houthis received an Iranian ambassador last month [Twitter]

Date of publication: 14 November, 2020

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Yemen's internationally recognised government is seeking to issue arrest warrants for Houthi leaders, the ministry of foreign affairs said on Friday.
Yemen's internationally-recognised government said it would head to Interpol to issue arrest warrants for the leaders of the Houthi rebel group, after they appointed representatives for official diplomatic missions in Syria and Iran.

The ministry of foreign affairs announced its intentions in a statement published on Twitter on Friday that condemned the appointment of Houthi ambassadors to Syria and Iran.

"The statements of Abdullah Ali Sabri, Na'if Ahmad Al-Qanas, and Ibrahim Muhammad Al-Dailami, who assumed official Yemeni characteristics with 'diplomatic' names and their locations, were circulated to all our diplomatic missions abroad and the diplomatic missions accredited to our country," the MOFA statement said.

"Countries were informed not to deal with them or facilitate their movement and hand them over to the government of the Republic of Yemen whenever they found on their territory," the statement said.

"The judicial authorities in our country have initiated the necessary legal procedures to issue compulsory arrest warrants against the aforementioned via Interpol," the statement added.

The remarks came just days after the rebels appointed Abdullah Sabri, the head of the Yemeni Media Union, as the new ambassador to Damascus to take over Naif Al-Qanas' role.

Al-Qanas was appointed as the representative in 2016 - the first announced ambassador to the Houthis following their control of the capital in 2014.

In mid-October, the rebels received an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) official as Iran’s  ambassador to Sanaa.

The move sparked outrage in Yemen and prompted the internationally-recognised government, which was forced out of the capital after a rebel coup in 2014, to submit a formal complaint to the United Nations' Security Council.

"The action constitutes a breach of Iran's international obligations under the United Nations charter, the Vienna Conventions on the Diplomatic Consular Relationship and Security Council resolutions," the complaint said.

"It constitutes dangerous precedents that affect the essence of the rights of members states of the United Nations and allows rogue states and regime to enable rebels to violate state sovereignty," the statement added.

Any actions issued in Yemen's name by the "occupied embassy" in Tehran are considered null, the statement warned.

Fars news agency did not specify when or how the ambassador had reached Sanaa, but the announcement came shortly after more than 1,000 prisoners were freed in a landmark exchange between the warring sides in Yemen.

Details surrounding his successful entrance into Yemen sparked outrage among senior political officials as well as Yemen watchers, with the office of the Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths issuing a statement to deny any involvement in the transfer of Hassan Irloo into the capital.

"The Iranian press has previously devoted considerable attention to the Irloo family due to their strong ties to the Iranian Islamic Revolution and its military wing," Mohammed Albasha of the research firm Navanti Group told The New Arab in October.

"In 2013, when Irloo's mother died, Qassem Soleimani himself attended the funeral to honour her as the mother of two martyrs - Hussein and Asghar - who were killed in the Iran-Iraq War," Albasha said.

"The smuggling of an enigmatic figure with close familial ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps into Houthi territory under the guise of diplomacy reinforces the primacy of Yemen within Iran's regional 'axis of resistance' framework, and demonstrates that Iran has no intention of disengaging from Yemen in the near future," Albasha added.

Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United States have also accused Iran of providing weapons as well as military expertise to assist the rebels in developing missiles that have for years rained on the neighbouring kingdom.

Iran has long-insisted on denying claims it is supporting the rebels in Yemen with weapons.

But earlier this year, a member of the Houthis' political council said the rebel group benefits from neighbouring Arab and Muslim relations, including Iraq, Iran and Oman, admitting to long-rumoured ties with the Islamic Republic.

The rebels are benefiting from relations with these countries amid ongoing "aggression", Abdul-Malik Alejri, a member of the Houthi political council said, referring to the conflict with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies.

"We do not deny that the authority of Sanaa and Ansar Allah has relations and contacts with Iran, Oman, Iraq and other Arab and Islamic countries," Alejri said on Twitter, referring to the rebel's official political party name.

Read also: Biden and the Saudi quagmire in Yemen

These relations are "natural, which we should not be ashamed of, based on our vision of establishing positive relations between Yemen and the surrounding Arab and Islamic countries, especially the neighbouring countries, except those who refuse", he added.

"We are taking advantage of this relationship to push aggression against our country," he said, referring to the military operations of Saudi-led coalition, which has been battling the rebels in Yemen since 2015.

The military intervention has so far led to more than 100,000 being killed and millions to suffer food shortages, in what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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