Saudi team in Socotra as UAE presence angers Yemen

Meeting takes place amid rising anger among Yemenis over deployment of UAE forces and military craft on pristine island.

A local guide walks on the approach to Ditwa lagoon and beach near the port of Qalensiya, the second biggest town on Yemen''s Socotra island

A first meeting between a Saudi delegation and representatives of the Yemeni government on the Yemeni island of Socotra has ended without results, a Yemeni source told Al Jazeera.

The delegation met Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr, Yemen’s prime minister, on Friday after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) deployed four military craft and more than 100 troops to Socotra, reportedly without first consulting Yemen’s government.

On Friday, a Yemeni government official said UAE forces had occupied sea and airports on Socotra, in a move the official called an “act of aggression“.

A Yemeni minister told Anadolu news agency on Friday that the Yemeni people would not give up any sovereign territory.

“Yemenis will safeguard their land, islands and coastland. We will not surrender one grain of sand,” Nayef al-Bakri, the minister for youth and sports affairs, was quoted as saying.


Anwar Gargash, UAE’s junior foreign minister, said on Twitter that his country had historic and family ties to Socotra. 

“We will support [Socotra’s residents] in their stability, healthcare, education and living [conditions],” he said.

A Yemeni government source told AFP news agency that the arrival of UAE forces on the island sparked anger among local residents, who argued that there were no Iran-aligned Houthi rebels on the island to justify the deployment. 

Videos on social media show dozens of Socotra women taking part in a march against the UAE presence.

Socotra, a UNESCO heritage site home to some 60,000 people, has a 3,000-metre-long runway, ideal for fighter jets and large military aircraft.

Spreading influence

The UAE and Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi are formally allies in a war against the Houthi rebels. 

A coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been battling the Iran-aligned armed group for three years to restore Hadi to power in the Arabian Peninsula country.

Relations between Hadi and the UAE have soured, however, due to the latter’s expanding influence in southern Yemen.

Hadi has previously accused the UAE of behaving like an occupier, according to the Middle East Eye website.

The UAE’s move to exert control over Socotra is seen by many as the latest move by the Arab Gulf state to spread its influence well beyond its borders.

The UAE is also expanding its presence into Somaliland at the commercial port of Berbera.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies