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UAE welcomes peace efforts after Biden announcement on ending support for Yemen war

The UAE has backed southern separatist militias in Yemen [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 February, 2021

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The Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs has welcomed 'peace initiatives' in Yemen following President Biden's decision to end support for Saudi offensive operations there.
The UAE has stated its support for "peace initiatives" in Yemen following US President Joe Biden's announcement on Thursday that Washington would end its support for Saudi Arabia and its allies’ war in Yemen.

“The UAE ended its military involvement in Yemen in October of last year. Eager to see the war over, the UAE has supported UN efforts and multiple peace initiatives,” Anwar Gargash, the Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, tweeted.

However, analysts have pointed out that the UAE has previously announced withdrawals from Yemen while continuing to support separatist militias in the south of the country.

Biden's Thursday announcement has triggered mixed reactions from the conflict’s actors.

The decision will reverse US military backing to Saudi Arabia which was started by the Obama administration when the war began in March 2015.

Under Donald Trump's administration, the US increased arms sales to Saudi Arabia and its allies.

"We are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arm sales," Biden said in his first major speech on foreign affairs. 

However, Biden qualified this by saying that the US was still committed to Saudi Arabia's defence.

"At the same time, Saudi Arabia faces missile attacks and other attacks from Iranian supplied forces in multiple countries. We're going to help Saudi Arabia to defend its territory and its people," Biden added.

Biden also announced the appointment of Timothy Lenderking as Washington’s new special envoy to Yemen.

The Wall Street Journal quoted a senior official as saying that the only thing missing from the US’s approach on Yemen was not having “a senior US person who was empowered to work on this full time.”

Saudi Arabia on early Friday declared its support for a “comprehensive political solution” in Yemen.

Despite leading the intervention to defeat the Houthis and restore the internationally recognised government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, Riyadh has scaled back its bombing campaign and analysts believe it is looking for a way out.

Saudi Arabia has sought to maintain the Hadi government’s influence by upholding the Riyadh Agreement, designed to unify Hadi and UAE-backed separatist forces into a power-sharing administration.

On Twitter, Gargash said that the UAE would continue humanitarian efforts in Yemen.

“Throughout the [war] the UAE has remained one of the largest providers of humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people

However, the United Nations said last September that the UAE provided no aid to Yemen following a UN fundraising event which an Emirati representative attended. 

The UAE-allied separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) also welcomed Biden's announcement.

“The Southern Transitional Council welcomes the speech of Hon. Joe Biden, the President of the United States of America, in which he details the new US strategy towards ending the war in Yemen Republic and immediately end the world’s worst human catastrophe,” tweeted the STC’s English language Twitter account.

The UAE has supported the STC, whichseeks to secure an independent south Yemeni state, since 2017.

Emirati-backed STC militias seized the island of Socotra in June last year, pushing out authorities loyal to President Hadi. Abu Dhabi has long sought to establish a military presence and bolster its clout over the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who have been fighting Saudi Arabia and President Hadi's government since 2015, also welcomed Biden’s pledge.

However, the group has publicly doubted whether Biden's announcement will lead to a change on the ground.

“Any move that does not achieve results on the ground by ending the siege and stopping the aggression, we do not pay any attention to it,” tweeted Mohammad al-Houthi. “We are not those who are deceived by such statements.”

The Houthis are currently engaged in conflict with Saudi-backed government forces in different Yemeni regions, including Hodeida, Marib and al-Dhale.

The faction moved closer to Iran under Donald Trump's presidency, amid increasing tensions between Washington and Tehran.

One of the Trump administration's last acts was to designate the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organisation but President Biden has pledged to review this decision.

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