ABU DHABI: The UAE has called on the international community to pressure Iran-backed Houthi militias to withdraw peacefully from Hodeidah, and to leave its port intact.
Anwar Gargash, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said that his country is deeply concerned by reports coming out of Hodeidah.
“I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Hodeida about the Houthi response to international calls for their peaceful retreat”, noting the Houthi militias reaction shows ‘the real and ugly face of their policy.”
Gargash added on his official Twitter account that “their use of land & sea mines shows a cruel & callous disregard for Yemeni lives.”
In his tweets, Gargash reiterated that “the current and illegal Houthi occupation of Hodeidah is prolonging the Yemeni war, and the liberation of the city and port will create a new reality and bring the Houthis to the negotiations.”
Gargash also said that “the Houthis cannot hold Hodeidah hostage to finance their war and divert the flow of humanitarian aid. Their assault on the Yemeni people has continued for too long.”
Earlier, Gargash said that an ultimatum for the United Nations to convince the Iran backed Houthi movement to evacuate Yemen’s main port of Hodeidah expired on Tuesday night.
The Saudi-led coalition, which the UAE is part of, is gearing up for an assault on Hodeidah, preparing to launch by far the biggest battle of a three-year-old war between an alliance of Arab states and the Iran backed Houthi militia that controls Yemen’s capital Sanaa.
Hodeidah, the only Yemeni port controlled by the Houthis, serves as a lifeline channeling food, medicines and other vital imports to the majority of Yemenis who live in Houthi-ruled territory.
“We gave UN special envoy Martin Griffiths 48 hours to convince the Houthis to withdraw from the port and city of Hodeidah,” Anwar Gargash, Minister of State told France’s Le Figaro newspaper.
“We are awaiting his response. These 48 hours expire during the night of Tuesday and Wednesday.”
The United Nations said it was engaged in “intense” shuttle diplomacy between the Houthis and coalition leaders Saudi Arabia and the UAE to avert an all-out attack.
“If the Houthis don’t get out of Hodeidah city and the port, the UAE will start a military operation against the rebels in Hodeidah,” Gargash was quoted as saying by the French daily.
“Thanks to them controlling the port of Hodeidah, they are getting financing, which allows them to get weapons, such as missiles that are then fired on Saudi Arabia.”
Amid the diplomatic efforts to avert a worsening of an already desperate humanitarian crisis in Yemen, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Macron’s office said.