Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Arabia’

Kushner, Egypt’s Sisi discuss Israel-Palestinian peace process

June 21, 2018

US President Donald Trump’s adviser Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Sisi told the US diplomats, who are touring the region in a bid to revive long-stalled talks, that Egypt supports a “just and comprehensive settlement” to the conflict.

© EGYPTIAN PRESIDENCY/AFP | A picture released by Egypt’s Presidency on June 21, 2018 shows (R-L) Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi meeting US President Donald Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt and adviser Jared Kushner in Cairo

He argued in favour of a “two-state solution on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine,” the presidency said in a statement.

Trump’s administration sparked anger across the Arab world in December by recognising Jerusalem as capital of the Jewish state.

The Palestinian leadership responded by freezing all contacts with US officials.

In May Washington moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, sparking mass demonstrations on Israel’s flashpoint border with Gaza in which Israeli forces shot dead dozens of demonstrators.

The White House said Thursday that Kushner and Greenblatt had discussed increasing cooperation between the United States and Egypt.

They also talked about “the need to facilitate humanitarian relief to Gaza, and the Trump administration’s efforts to facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians”, it said.

Sisi’s office said he had told them Egypt maintains “ongoing contacts with the parties concerned to advance efforts to revive negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis.”

He also pointed to Egypt’s efforts to promote reconciliation between the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Islamists Hamas who rule Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority, which sees the Trump administration as biased towards Israel, said Saturday that US plans to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are “doomed to fail”.

Kushner and Greenblatt met Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman on Tuesday before visiting Riyadh to meet Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

They are reported to be planning visits to Israel and Qatar.



Why Russia’s Middle East Gamble Has a Limited Payoff

June 21, 2018

To many countries, ties with Moscow are just a way to leverage stronger U.S. backing

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses troops at a Syrian air base in December.
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses troops at a Syrian air base in December. PHOTO: MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/ASSOCIATED PRESS

MOSCOW—Russia’s military intervention in Syria has turned it into a significant player across the Middle East once again.

But what does this really mean?

Is Russia, as some American allies (and officials) fear, close to displacing the massive influence that the U.S. has exercised over the region for decade?

Or is it simply being drawn into the quagmire of Middle Eastern intrigues, used by regional powers for their own interests—and garnering little strategic benefit for its efforts?

A look at the region provides a complex picture. While Moscow’s relationships are deepening, its influence is still nowhere near matching Washington’s.

None of the Middle East nations that aligned themselves with the U.S. and the West have changed camp since the Arab Spring’s turbulence hit the region in 2011.

Russia’s intervention to rescue its historic ally, the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, came only after another historic Moscow ally, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, was ousted and killed following a NATO military campaign in support of Libyan rebels. Gone with Ghadhafi were billions of dollars in contracts awarded to Russian enterprises.

Military backing from Mr. Putin has shored up Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, seen here with the Russian president in Sochi, Russia, in May.
Military backing from Mr. Putin has shored up Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, seen here with the Russian president in Sochi, Russia, in May. PHOTO: MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Yet, Russia has managed to nurture relationships with traditional Western allies that were hostile to Moscow in Soviet times, including TurkeyIsrael, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. That carries some economic benefits—but provides Moscow with only limited political gains.

“Nobody is pushing America out of the Middle East, it’s just pulling out by itself and leaving a vacuum behind,” said Alexey Khlebnikov, a fellow at the Russian International Affairs Council, a state-run think tank. “Russia has no real allies in the region, just partners with which it can do business despite political disagreements on many issues. Russia is not an alternative to them, it’s just a way to diversify their portfolio of relations.”

That diversification is made easier by the fact that President Donald Trump’s administration doesn’t seem to mind Russia’s new prominence in the Middle East.

“For most countries in the region, ties with Russia represent just an insurance policy—and, because the U.S. is not showing any displeasure over this and isn’t trying to kick Russia out, it’s now a zero-cost insurance policy,” said Robin Mills, CEO of Qamar Energy, a Dubai-based consultancy and advisory firm.

Today’s Russia, despite its military abilities and its sophisticated diplomatic and intelligence networks, doesn’t really have the means to project power across the region: its midsize economy is roughly the size of Australia’s or Spain’s.

And, unlike the Soviet Union, which inserted itself in Middle Eastern conflicts as a way to promote the Communist ideology during the Cold War confrontation, modern Russia has no alternative social and economic model to spread.

“Russia is in new conditions because we don’t provide ideological support to some kind of left-wing, communist forces,” said Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister who oversees the Middle East and Africa. “That is all in the past. We act based on rational considerations because cooperation must be mutually beneficial…. But at the same time, we stand for respecting the sovereignty of those nations.”

A frequently heard refrain in the Middle East is that Russia—unlike the U.S.—has proved that it backs its allies, no matter how unsavory they may be. By contrast, the U.S. under President Barack Obama embraced the 2011 protests that ousted such longstanding American allies (and autocrats) as President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia.

Even many of those Arabs who hold little love for Syria’s Mr. Assad confess admiration for how Mr. Putin didn’t hesitate to use military force to prevent a similar downfall of the Syrian regime.

“Egyptians see Putin as someone who’s a statesman that stands by his friends, someone who doesn’t let them down the way the Americans did with Mubarak,” said Anwar E. Sadat, a prominent opposition politician and a nephew of Egypt’s late President Anwar Sadat. “At the same time, the American president is making everyone confused about what he really wants.”

This admiration for Mr. Putin and widespread perplexity about the Trump administration don’t necessarily translate into a policy shift toward Moscow, Mr. Sadat added.

“Russia has nothing to deliver,” he said. “The Russians know that our strategic relationship with America is vital and will always be there. I don’t think there is a big future to Egyptian-Russian relations.”

If anything, regional countries such as Egypt and Turkey are using Russia—and actual or threatened purchases of Russian weapons—as leverage to improve their negotiating position where it still really matters: in Washington.

“Many countries in the Middle East are making limited investments in their relationship with Russia just so that they can use it with their allies such as the U.S., telling them—give us this or that, or we will ask Russia,” said Yuri Barmin, a Russian security consultant working in the Middle East. “But Russia is an imaginary alternative. The optical effect here is much larger than the substance. All these countries understand perfectly well how limited Russia’s influence really is.”

Write to Yaroslav Trofimov at

Saudis meet with Kushner, Greenblatt to discuss Gaza, peace push

June 21, 2018

US envoys make second stop on regional tour as tensions with Palestinians continue to rise

Jared Kushner alongside a member of the Saudi delegation at a White House meeting between President Donald Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, March 20, 2018. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images via JTA)

Jared Kushner alongside a member of the Saudi delegation at a White House meeting between President Donald Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, March 20, 2018. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images via JTA)

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince on Wednesday hosted US President Donald Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt and adviser Jared Kushner to discuss the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, following a new flare-up of hostilities in Gaza.

The meeting with Prince Mohammed bin Salman came as Israeli warplanes pounded Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in response to a barrage of rockets and mortar shells fired from the Palestinian enclave.

“Building on previous conversations, they discussed… the need to bring humanitarian relief to Gaza, and the Trump administration’s efforts to bring peace between the Israelis and Palestinians,” the White House said in a brief statement.

The visit came a day after Greenblatt and Kushner met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman to discuss the peace process during a regional tour that will also take them to Israel, Egypt and Qatar.

The tour is widely seen as aimed at drumming up support ahead of the administration’s rollout of its own peace plan.

A senior administration official told The Times of Israel last week that the trip is an opportunity to “discuss the situation in Gaza and to discuss the next stages of the peace effort, as well as get some ideas from players in the region about some remaining questions the White House peace team has.”

No stops are planned in the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians have rejected the Trump peace plan and cut off talks with the administration after the White House announced it would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled since 2014.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, but Israel considers the entire city to be its eternal and indivisible capital.

The talks with the Saudis came as Israel threatened to expand its response against Gazan terrorists launching rockets and incendiary devices over the border.

Israel’s latest strikes targeting Hamas’s military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, were more intense than in previous sorties.

Israeli warplanes initially targeted three Hamas military positions overnight in Gaza in response to kites and balloons carrying incendiary and explosive devices launched into Israel from the Palestinian territory, the Israeli army said.

The latest spike in tensions follows weeks of deadly protests and clashes along the Gaza-Israel border as well as the worst military escalation last month since the 2014 war.


Iran to resist Saudi-led push to increase oil output

June 20, 2018

Brent rises to nearly $76 a barrel as Tehran and Riyadh clash ahead of Opec meeting

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By Anjli Raval and David Sheppard in Vienna, and Kathrin Hille in Moscow

Iran’s oil minister will resist a Saudi Arabia-led push to raise crude output, putting the two Middle East rivals on a collision course ahead of a closely watched Opec meeting at the end of the week.

Bijan Zanganeh said he did not believe a deal to relax production cuts, put in place nearly two years ago amid a global supply glut, could be reached at the oil cartel’s meeting, insisting the group was not an “American organisation”.

“Opec is not an organisation to receive its instruction from President Trump,” Mr Zanganeh said on arriving in Vienna for the talks.

The remarks sent Brent crude, the international benchmark, up more than 1 per cent to $75.86 a barrel in early London trading on Wednesday before it pared some of its gains. That is still off three-year highs of more than $80 a barrel reached before Saudi Arabian and Russian officials held talks on output cuts.

Russia, the largest non-Opec crude producer, and Saudi Arabia have been in talks to ease production curbs since May amid pressure from Donald Trump, who has publicly chastised Opec for high prices.

In addition to the US president’s admonishment, his administration has more quietly asked producers — widely believed to include Saudi Arabia, a US ally and rival of Tehran — to ease output restrictions to make up for any drop in exports from Iran, whose oil industry is facing a new round of US sanctions.

Moscow wants Opec and its allies outside of the cartel to allow 1.5m barrels a day to return to the market, Russian energy minister Alexander Novak told reporters in Minsk on Tuesday.

Although Saudi Arabia has engaged in talks with Russia over an increase of around 1m b/d, the 1.5m b/d figure is higher than has previously been discussed and would probably face a backlash from rival producers.

Mr Zanganeh said unanimity was required on every policy decision, adding: “I don’t believe in this meeting we can reach an agreement.”

He blamed the Trump administration for higher prices by imposing sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, two founding members of Opec. “The high price has been created by his actions.

“Opec is not part of the department of energy from the United States,” he said. “It is not a political tool to be used against some countries.

“A high price supports shale production in the United States. But because of public opinion in the US against the high price he [President Trump] wants Opec to change the situation.”

Iran has maintained it is unfair for others to take advantage of its antagonistic relationship with the US. Iraq, meanwhile, has said unleashing more supplies could trigger renewed price falls. Still, Jabar al-Luaibi, the country’s oil minister, appeared to soften his tone on his arrival in Vienna, saying he hoped there would be an agreement.

Privately, Saudi Arabia is briefing delegates and analysts that it is seeking an increase of between 300,000 b/d and 600,000 b/d. It wants to ensure any additional barrels are brought on gradually and wants to avoid renewed oil price falls.

Three Opec delegates have said that the latest 1.5m b/d figure from Russia is part of an orchestrated attempt to ensure prices stay in check when an output increase is announced later this week.

One person said the move has unnecessarily aggravated other members who do not agree with unwinding the production cuts. Another said there was still no agreement on how any potential increase would be shared among producers.

Mr Novak said prices were “balanced” enough to absorb a steep production increase.

Yemen pro-govt forces seize Hodeida airport from rebels

June 20, 2018

Emitari-backed Yemeni government forces seized Hodeida airport from Huthi rebels on Wednesday, the coalition said, in a major step towards retaking the key Red Sea port city.

“The airport was completely cleared, Thank God, and is under control,” coalition commander for the Red Sea coast, Abdul Salaam al-Shehi, said in a video posted by the United Arab Emirates’ official WAM news agency.

Last Wednesday, government forces launched an offensive to clear Hodeida of rebel fighters who have held it since 2014, raising UN concerns for vital aid shipments and commercial food imports through the city’s docks.

© AFP | Emitari-backed Yemeni government forces advance into Hodeida airport on June 19, 2018 in a major step towards recapturing the strategic Red Sea port city from Shiite rebels. .UAE-backed Yemeni government forces fought their way into Hodeida airport today, pressing an offensive that has seen some of the most intense fighting of a three-year war against Shiite Huthi rebels.

The airport is disused but housed a major rebel base just inland from the coast road into the city from the south.

It lies just eight kilometres (five miles) from the city’s port, through which three-quarters of Yemen’s imports pass, providing a lifeline for some 22 million people dependent on aid.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths held four days of talks in the rebel-held capital Sanaa in a bid to avert an all-out battle for the city but flew out on Tuesday without announcing any breakthrough.

The United Arab Emirates and other members of a Saudi-led coalition that intervened in support of the government in 2015 have accused regional arch foe Iran of using Hodeida as conduit for arms smuggling to the rebels. Tehran has denied the allegation.


Saudi-led coalition storms Yemen’s Hodeidah airport compound

June 19, 2018

Troops backed by a Saudi-led coalition stormed the airport compound of Yemen’s main port city Hodeidah on Tuesday after fierce battles with Iran-aligned Houthis fighting to defend their sole port, residents and Yemeni military sources said.

Hodeidah port's cranes are pictured from a nearby shantytown in Hodeidah, Yemen

FILE PHOTO: Hodeidah port’s cranes are pictured from a nearby shantytown in Hodeidah, Yemen June 16, 2018. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad

The capture of the airport would be an important gain for the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who have said they can seize the heavily defended city quickly enough to avoid interrupting aid to millions facing starvation.

“They have stormed the airport,” an anti-Houthi Yemeni military source told Reuters.

A resident also said the compound had been stormed.

“This is the first time we hear the clashes so clearly. We can hear the sound of artillery and machinegun fire,” the resident, who requested anonymity, told Reuters, adding that warplanes bombarded the airport earlier in the morning.

The Western-backed alliance launched the onslaught on Hodeidah seven days ago in order to turn the tables in a long-stalemated proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran that has compounded instability across the Middle East.

The upsurge in fighting has wounded and displaced dozens of civilians and hampered the work of aid groups in the port city, which is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.

The United Nations says 22 million Yemenis depend on aid, and 8.4 million are on the verge of starvation.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Monday that the coalition was taking a measured approach to minimize risks to civilians, and allowing the Houthis an escape route inland to their bastion in the capital Sanaa.

Additional reporting by Maha El Dahan; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Robert Birsel


UN says over 25,000 people have fled Yemen fighting at Hodeida and more expected

June 19, 2018

The UN spokesman said Monday that tens of thousands of residents have fled the fighting along Yemen’s western coastline where Yemeni fighters backed by a Saudi-led coalition are engaged in fierce battles with Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, told reporters that about 5,200 families, or around 26,000 people, have fled the fighting and sought safety within their own districts or in other areas in Hodeida governorate.

“The number is expected to increase as hostilities continue,” he said.

The UN Security Council again reiterated its call for the rebel-held ports of Hodeida and Salif “to be kept open and operating safely” in a press statement issued after closed door briefings by UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths and UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock.

© Abdo Heider, AFP | Members of displaced Yemeni families who fled battles between government forces and Houthi fighters near the Hodeida airport stand on the balcony of a school used as temporary housing inside the city of Hudeida on June 17, 2018.

Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, whose country holds the rotating Security Council presidency this month, told reporters that Griffiths confirmed the ports continue to operate.

Emirati troops, along with irregular and loyalist forces in Yemen, have been fighting against Houthis for Hodeida since Wednesday. Coalition warplanes rained missiles and bombs on Houthi positions near Hodeida airport, in the city’s south.

Very disturbing

The campaign to seize control of Hodeida threatens to worsen Yemen’s humanitarian situation, as Hodeida’s port is the country’s main entry point for most humanitarian aid.

“The situation is very disturbing,” Polyansky said. “We all hope that nothing terrible will happen further in Hodeida. That is our shared analysis of the situation.”

The offensive for Hodeida has faced criticism from international aid groups, who fear a protracted fight could force a shutdown of the city’s port and potentially tip millions into starvation. Some 70 percent of Yemen’s food enters via the port, as well as the bulk of humanitarian aid and fuel supplies. Around two-thirds of the country’s population of 27 million relies on aid and 8.4 million are already at risk of starving.

Griffiths, the UN envoy, arrived in Yemen on Saturday to try to avoid an all-out assault in Hodeida. He briefed the Security Council by video from Sanaa on his proposals to restart political negotiations to end the three-year conflict in Yemen.

The statement from Security Council members said they welcomed his briefing on the proposals, “reaffirmed their full support for his efforts and underlined that a political solution remained the only way to end the conflict in Yemen.”

Polyansky said it was very difficult to talk about a timeframe for the political proposals.

“The political moves that are being proposed are being supported by us … but the situation is now very volatile,” he said. “We hope that he will succeed. … but let’s wait some time and see what will come of it.”


Date created : 2018-06-19

US said seeking to raise $500 million for Gaza from Gulf states

June 18, 2018

Funding would reportedly go toward industrial area in Egypt’s Sinai from where electricity, desalinated water would be pumped to Strip

Times of Israel
June 18, 2018
A woman sits with her children in their shack home near the beach in Gaza City on June 4, 2018. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

A woman sits with her children in their shack home near the beach in Gaza City on June 4, 2018. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

The United States is reportedly seeking to raise over $500 million from Gulf states to fund energy and economic development projects aimed at improving the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, as a prelude to revealing President Donald Trump’s plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The funds would be used to develop an industrial area in the northern Sinai region, which abuts Gaza, including a power station and factories to serve the residents of the Palestinian enclave, the Haaretz daily reported Monday.

White House special adviser Jared Kushner and US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, who are due in the region for talks this week, are expected to pitch the ideas to leaders in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Israel, the report said.

Washington hopes that improving the situation in Gaza, where electricity and drinking water supplies are meager, will help calm the security situation, which has seen several weeks of violent clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in the Strip.

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, speaks at the inauguration ceremony of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

In addition, the US hopes that plans to boost the quality of life in Gaza will create a positive atmosphere ahead of Trump presenting his peace plan, an event for which no date has yet been set, the report said.

Sources told Haartez that a large part of the proposals for Gaza revolve around basing service infrastructure in northern Sinai, including, in addition to a power plant, a seaport, factories to manufacture building supplies, a water desalination plant and a project to construct a solar energy site near the Sinai city of el-Arish.

The projects would be expected to create jobs for Gazans and also improve the security situation in northern Sinai, making it appealing to the Egyptians, who for years have been battling to suppress an Islamist terror campaign in the peninsula.

The report said there are two approaches being looked at — projects that can be quickly implemented and those that will take years to complete. Currently, the White House is reportedly focusing on funding for the more immediate projects with the aim of improving the situation in Gaza “and to also achieve some progress on the ground before the peace plan presentation.”

Yoav Mordechai, who until recently served as the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, presented similar ideas in March at an international summit on Gaza, hosted at the White House, the report said.

Deteriorating living conditions in the Strip have been cited by security officials as a major factor fueling the violent clashes on Israel’s border, as well as a debilitating sense of desperation.

According to the report, solving Gaza’s energy crisis is the top priority.

Trump’s son-in-law Kushner and Greenblatt are looking to secure financing –amounting to over $500 million — from Gulf states, and ensure cooperation from Israel and Egypt, the two countries that border the Palestinian enclave, which since 2007 has been under the control of the Hamas terror group, the report said.

US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt,arrives at a news conference about a water-sharing agreement between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in Jerusalem, July 13, 2017. (AFP/POOL/RONEN ZVULUN)

Israel and Egypt both enforce a blockade of Gaza, which Israel says is necessary to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons into Strip. Currently, goods arrive at Israeli ports, where they are screened and then brought to Gaza on hundreds of trucks a day.

The White House declined to comment on the plans, telling Haaretz only that “we don’t want to discuss specific details before talks are held on the matter.”

Although Kushner and Greenblatt are set to meet with regional leaders to iron out details of the Trump peace plan, they are not scheduled to hold talks with the Palestinians, who have refused to meet with US officials ever since Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December and then moved the US embassy to the city last month.

Gaza’s woes have been exacerbated by an ongoing dispute between Hamas and the rival Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which has cut the salaries it pays to workers in Gaza and imposed various sanctions, including cutting payments for electricity supplies to the enclave.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.


UAE’s Gargash: Arab coalition’s full control of Hodeidah only a matter of time

June 18, 2018

The Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-aligned Houthis for control of Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah will take a “calculated and gradual” approach to the battle, a senior United Arab Emirates official said on Monday.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said the military alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE was taking into consideration a “fragile humanitarian situation,” avoiding civilian casualties in addition to military calculations.

Gargash, speaking to reporters in Dubai, estimated the number of Houthi fighters in Hodeidah at between 2,000 to 3,000. He declined to reveal the size of coalition forces but said they had “numerical superiority.”

He said that the Arab coalition’s full control of Hodeidah only a matter of time.

This image grab taken from a AFPTV video shows Yemeni pro-government forces firing a heavy machine gun at the south of Hodeida airport. (AFP)

Gargash added that the Hodeidah port is a “major artery” for weapons smuggling from Iran to the Houthis.

“The liberation of Hodeidah is a major step in freeing Sanaa,” the UAE minister said, adding that “the roads leading to the port are filled with mines.”

France is said to be helping the Arab coalition in demining the roads.

“We have opened the road from Hodeidah to Sanaa to allow the militias to flee without resistance,” Gargash said.

The UN envoy for Yemen carried a plan to halt fighting around the key aid port of Hodeidah where Houthi militia have been battling a regional coalition as he arrived Saturday in the militia-held capital Sanaa for emergency talks.

Martin Griffiths was expected to propose to militia leaders that they cede control of the Red Sea port to a UN-supervised committee and halt heavy clashes against advancing government troops backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

(With AFP – Reuters)

Arab News


Yemen army offers safe routes for Hodeidah civilians — Iran looms large

June 18, 2018

“Unless they get the green light from their leaders in Iran they will never give up their weapons or surrender in peace and spare the innocent citizens in Hodeidah and the rest of the Yemeni territories under their control their atrocities.”

Houthi militants willing to put down their weapons would also be given safe passage, the army said. — The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Sunday that nearly 5,000 families have been displaced from Hodeidah province this month.

Forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition pushed their offensive to recapture Hodeidah. (AFP)

The Yemeni army said on Sunday it was ready to open safe corridors for civilians who want to leave Hodeidah.

Houthi militants willing to put down their weapons would also be given safe passage, the army said.

Fighting continued to rage around Yemen’s largest port as forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition pushed their offensive to recapture the city. Coalition jets bombed the airport as pro-government forces moved closer to dislodging the militants.

The UAE, a main coalition partner, said the operation was designed to help the UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, to persuade the Houthis to withdraw.

“We are at a turning point, because as long as the Houthis hold Hodeidah, they will continue to impede the political process,” Anwar Gargash, the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, said on Twitter. “We firmly believe that the liberation of Hodeidah will pull the Houthis back to the negotiating table.”

The people of Hodeidah did not want to be governed by “Iranian backed religious extremists,” he said. “We will continue to focus on our two main goals: To protect the flow of humanitarian aid and to protect civilians.”

The Yemeni military said about 500 Houthis had been killed in the battle for Hodeidah, which is a crucial aid supply line, but also a conduit for supplies of Iranian arms to the militants.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Sunday that nearly 5,000 families have been displaced from Hodeidah province this month.

Yemeni government spokesperson Rajeh Badi told Arab News the Houthi militias understand only the language of force.

He said they were not optimistic about the outcome of talks between Griffiths and the Houthi leaders.

“Unless they get the green light from their leaders in Iran they will never give up their weapons or surrender in peace and spare the innocent citizens in Hodeidah and the rest of the Yemeni territories under their control their atrocities,” Badi said.