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UAE’s Occupation of Yemen’s Socotra Island Widens Rifts with Saudi

Sunday 6 May 2018
UAE’s Occupation of Yemen’s Socotra Island Widens Rifts with Saudi

Alwaght- The United Arab Emirates (UAE) colonial takeover of the Yemeni island of Socotra has angered the nation's Resigned government and its patron, Saudi Arabia.

Tensions have heightened between forces of Saudi-backed government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and forces loyal to the UAE after Abu Dhabi deployed some 300 soldiers, along with tanks and artillery, to Socotra over the past few days.

Both camps are based in southern Yemen and mostly in Aden as the capital Sanaa remains under the control of the Ansarullah resistant movement.

The UAE was the first country to join the Saudi military aggression against Yemen in March 2015 but fissures have emerged in their alliance recently as each side has been trying to carve out a zone of influence in the territories they seize.  

Loyalists of resigned Yemeni president, who is based in Riyadh, have accused the UAE of abandoning an initial cause of fighting Ansarullah movement, saying Emirati forces are instead providing support to those seeking a separation of southern Yemen territories from the north of the country.

Socotra island, located in the Gulf of Aden and sometimes referred to as the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean, is listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site.

Tensions have flared over the deployment which was mounted during a visit of a Saudi delegation to the strategic Yemeni island originally aimed at mediating between the two sides. The UAE deployed additional forces while the committee was on the ground.

In Socotra, reports have said the UAE was seeking to illegally exploit the island's pristine natural resources and turn it into a permanent military outpost-cum-holiday resort. 

While Socotra is protected by UNESCO and even the Yemeni government is unable to interfere in the Island's natural habitats and places of natural beauty, reports have suggested that the UAE has been stealing its natural resources, including plants and seeds to take back to the Emirates.

To win public support among Socotra’s population of 60,000 people, UAE authorities have arranged free tours for residents to Abu Dhabi, while offering free healthcare and special work permits.

However, videos posted on social media purportedly show residents of Socotra angrily reacting to the new Emirati deployment, accusing the Sheikhdom of building a factory and a prison, recruiting the island’s residents, and creating a new militia. It has been buying land and clearing it for construction. Some residents and activists fear damage to the island’s environment, which has previously seen only limited development.

On Saturday, the foreign ministry of Yemen's Supreme Political Council - the de facto administration based in the capital Sana'a - denounced the UAE's troop deployment to Socotra. 

"The island’s occupation betrays the goal and nature of the occupation by the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s forces,” said a source at the ministry who asked not to be named.

“The invading countries are trying to impose their control on the southern Yemen areas and islands,” he added.

Last year, UAE-backed separatists began confronting Hadi's loyalists in Aden which is key to controlling the nearby Bab el-Mandeb Strait through which an estimated 12.5 to 20 percent of global trade passes every year. 

Some analysts say that Abu Dhabi is struggling to bring in its grasp Yemen’s main ports from Mukalla in east to Mocha lying on the coast of the Red Sea. And that the oil-rich state's final aim is to secure economic privileges in the Yemeni ports through staging a wide-ranging state-building process in Yemen's south. Apparently, the UAE's zeal to invade Al Hudaydah port, also in south, is driven by its long-term strategy for the region.

The observers maintain that the UAE leaders have concentrated their efforts on materializing their aims in southern Yemen as they see no clear outlook for end of the four-year-long aggression against Yemen. This by itself sends into spins the Saudi officials who after some 40 months of relentless bombing campaign not only declined to make gains in north but also see the south slipping out of their control.

If this trend continues, the two Arab allies risk facing a collapse of their alliance in Yemen.

Tags :

Yemen Aggression UAE Saudi Arabia Socotra

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