Arab coalition reiterates support for Yemeni government as battle for Marib continues

Arab coalition reiterates support for Yemeni government as battle for Marib continues
Government forces on Wednesday made limited advances in the northern province of Jouf after driving the Houthis from the mountains. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 18 August 2021

Arab coalition reiterates support for Yemeni government as battle for Marib continues

Arab coalition reiterates support for Yemeni government as battle for Marib continues
  • Dozens of Houthis reportedly killed in two days of intensive air raids by coalition warplanes on rebel targets in Marib and Jouf provinces.

ALEXANDRIA: The Arab coalition on Wednesday pledged to provide continuous military support to the internationally recognized government in Yemen in its ongoing battle against the Iran-backed Houthis.

It came as Lt. Gen. Mutlaq Al-Azima, deputy chief of the general staff and acting commander of the joint forces, and Lt. Gen. Mohammed Ali Al-Maqdishi, Yemen’s defense minister, met to discuss military operations in the country and coalition support for government troops, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Dozens of Houthis were reportedly killed on Tuesday and Wednesday during intensive air raids by coalition warplanes targeting rebel locations and military reinforcements in Marib and Jouf provinces. Yemeni military officials said the airstrikes prevented the Houthis from advancing in those areas and helped government forces make limited gains.

Skirmishes between government forces and rebels broke out on the ground in several places in the two provinces as Houthi efforts to recapture Marib city continued. Yemen’s Defense Ministry said the Houthis suffered heavy casualties, with at least 15 killed, during an ambush by government forces in Al-Mashjah, west of Marib.

Fighting in the central Marib province escalated in February when the Houthis resumed a major military offensive in an attempt to conquer Marib city, the government’s last bastion in the north of the country.

Government forces on Wednesday made limited advances in the northern province of Jouf after driving the Houthis from the mountains and surrounding areas in the district of Bart Al-Anan.

On Tuesday, Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed appealed to the UN and other international donors to help the war-torn country cope with the rapid devaluation of its currency and an economic meltdown.

During a meeting in Riyadh with Cathy Westley, charge d’affairs of the US embassy in Yemen, Saeed called on global powers and aid organizations to allocate urgent funds to help his government implement plans to address the economic crisis and its dangerous repercussions on an already devastating humanitarian crisis, official Yemeni state news agency SABA reported.

The PM said his government’s current priorities are halting the depreciation of the nation’s currency, the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, and ending the Houthi coup.

After a brief recovery last week, the value of the Yemeni riyal slipped again on Wednesday on the black market, reaching a rate of 1040 to the dollar, compared with 950 during the rebound.

In an attempt to halt the slide in value and control a chaotic exchange market, the central bank in Aden recently shut down several unregulated exchange firms, told the others to follow monetary rules, and ordered commercial and Islamic banks based in Sanaa to move their operations to Aden.


Ankara examines alternative energy routes amid reported collapse of EastMed pipeline

Ankara examines alternative energy routes amid reported collapse of EastMed pipeline
Updated 10 sec ago

Ankara examines alternative energy routes amid reported collapse of EastMed pipeline

Ankara examines alternative energy routes amid reported collapse of EastMed pipeline
  • Experts say changing regional dynamics may open window of opportunity for Turkey to boost Israel energy ties

ANKARA: Amid reports that the US has withdrawn its support for the EastMed pipeline due to economic and environmental concerns, Ankara is poised to bring alternative energy sources to the table.

The EastMed project, which was expected to be completed by 2025, aimed at diminishing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas by annually carrying 10 billion cubic meters of gas from Israeli and Cypriot waters into the European gas network through the 1,900-km-long pipeline

Turkey has long rejected the EastMed project, which has the support of Greece, Cyprus and Israel. The Trump administration also backed the pipeline. 

During a visit to Albania on Jan. 18, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that the project “cannot work without Turkey.”

“This project cannot happen. They (the US) carried out all the analyses, and they recognized that it had no positive sides. In other words, the cost calculations didn’t add up, so it pulled its support.”

Amid discussions of a possible official visit from Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Erdogan said on Tuesday that Turkey and Israel had previously tried to cooperate on energy resources but that relevant negotiations had been never pushed far. 

“The US’s loss of interest in the EastMed pipeline is grounded principally on its shift of energy policy focus and secondarily on the multiple economic, geopolitical, technical and environmental challenges faced by the pipeline,” Madalina Sisu Vicari, an energy expert from the Eurasian Energy Chamber in Washington, told Arab News. 

“When it comes the East Mediterranean region’s energy, the US’s interest is now primarily on electricity interconnectors that can support both gas and renewable energy sources, such as the EuroAsia interconnector linking the Israeli, Cypriot and European electricity grids, and the EuroAfrica subsea electricity interconnector linking Egypt to Crete and Greece,” she added. 

According to Sisu Vicari, other players from the East Mediterranean region have begun fostering energy opportunities and projects beyond the field of natural gas, and these efforts could re-shape the region’s geopolitical environment.

“For instance, Egypt, Greece and Cyprus signed, in last October, two memoranda of cooperation on the interconnection for the transmission of electric power — one aiming to connect their electricity grids, another to link their power systems to Egypt’s via a subsea cable,” she said. 

“The latter interconnector will transmit power produced by renewables in North Africa to Europe, the first such infrastructure in the East Mediterranean,” she said. 

Sisu Vicari also noted that Washington’s shift of position on the EastMed pipeline might also determine mood swings from Israel, as the project is not compatible with the environmental goals declared by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who has pledged zero emissions by 2050. 

Experts note that changing regional dynamics may open a window of opportunity for Turkey to boost energy cooperation with Israel. 

As part of its efforts to mend ties with its former foes, Turkey has already signaled that it is prepared to carry the Israeli gas to Europe via its territories.

“We can sit down and discuss terms,” Erdogan said recently, adding that Turkey may use energy “as a tool for peace” if possible.

Sisu Vicari noted that whether such an energy deal would aim solely for the transportation of gas or encompass further areas of energy cooperation remains to be seen. 

“But an energy agreement would have important geopolitical implications not only for the bilateral relations between Turkey and Israel, but for the whole East Mediterranean region as well,” she said. 

Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based energy expert, said it would not be feasible to launch a new pipeline if the authorities ever decide to initiate a joint project to carry gas to Europe through Turkish territories. 

“An Arab gas pipeline, a trans-regional gas pipeline meant to transfer natural gas, is already there. That pipeline, which will carry Egyptian natural gas to Europe by passing through Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, is expected to be connected to Turkey when the Syrian grid is fully constructed and when the Homs-Aleppo segment is completed,” he told Arab News. 

The first segment of the Syria-Turkey connection of the Arab Gas Pipeline between Aleppo and the Turkish border town of Kilis has been already constructed.

But on the other hand, Turkish and Israeli energy ministers held intense negotiations in 2017 when the construction of a proposed pipeline between Turkey and Israel was on the table. 

“It was expected to be a 500-km-long pipeline and would pass through maritime zones of Cyprus or Syria or both for carrying gas from Leviathan to Europe via Turkish territories,” Sezer said. 

“Beyond its international maritime law aspects, Turkish companies found this project too costly and not financially feasible.

“But the northern flank of Egypt hosts significant gas reserves, which should encourage Turkey to focus on that area rather than building new lines,” Sezer said. 

According to Sezer, any new gas project with Israel could further harm fragile regional relations, and could be used by Tehran as a pretext to halt gas flow to Turkey, especially under harsh winter conditions. 

Iran cut gas flows to Turkey on Wednesday, allegedly due to a technical failure, prompting several experts to question whether it was a reaction by Tehran against Herzog’s anticipated visit to Turkey.


Turkey, Qatar reached preliminary deal on Kabul airport security -Turkish sources

Turkey, Qatar reached preliminary deal on Kabul airport security -Turkish sources
Updated 36 min 25 sec ago

Turkey, Qatar reached preliminary deal on Kabul airport security -Turkish sources

Turkey, Qatar reached preliminary deal on Kabul airport security -Turkish sources
  • Kabul's international airport is landlocked Afghanistan's main air link to the world
  • Sources told reporters on Thursday that Ankara and Doha had agreed on a security framework for the airport mission

ANKARA: Turkey and Qatar have reached agreement on ensuring security at Kabul’s main airport should they be awarded the mission amid ongoing talks with the Taliban government, Turkish diplomatic sources said on Thursday.
Kabul’s international airport is landlocked Afghanistan’s main air link to the world. Following the August takeover of Afghanistan by Taliban, Turkey has said it would be open to operating it with Qatar but only if its security demands are met.
Reuters has reported that the United Arab Emirates also held talks with the Taliban to keep the airport operational.
The sources told reporters on Thursday that Ankara and Doha had agreed on a security framework for the airport mission, but added talks continued on other aspects such as financing.
“It is expected for the Taliban to ensure security outside, and for whoever runs the airport to ensure it inside,” one of the sources said. “The process is continuing constructively,” the person said on condition of anonymity.
They added that a delegation of Turkish and Qatari officials were holding talks on the issue in Kabul this week.
Qatar’s state news agency said the Taliban government will be in Doha next week to complete discussions with Qatar and Turkey over the operation and management of the airport.
It added that delegations from Qatar and Turkey have held two days of “intense negotiations” in Kabul this week over control of the airport.
Qatar — which helped run the airport along with Turkey after playing a major role in evacuation efforts following the chaotic US withdrawal in August — say that Ankara, Doha, and the Taliban have agreed that discussions are going to be completed next week.
Qatar’s role at the Kabul airport has ensured that flights have operated between Doha and Kabul since September, allowing Qatar to become a hub for countries to maintain links to Afghanistan and to meet the Taliban government. The United States, United Kingdom, Canada and several other countries have moved their Afghanistan embassies to Qatar.
On Wednesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was sending 700 tons of emergency aid and supplies to Afghanistan, without providing a date.


Biden stance on restoring Houthis to terror list welcomed

Biden stance on restoring Houthis to terror list welcomed
Updated 20 January 2022

Biden stance on restoring Houthis to terror list welcomed

Biden stance on restoring Houthis to terror list welcomed
  • Emirati Embassy: “Case is clear — launching ballistic and cruise missiles against civilian targets, sustaining aggression, diverting aid to Yemeni people”
  • The coalition has announced launching a large-scale military operation in Yemen to neutralize the military capabilities of the Houthis

AL-MUKALLA: US President Joe Biden has said his administration is considering re-designating Yemen’s Houthi militia as an international terrorist organization following the group’s drone and missile attacks on the UAE.

His comment at a news conference came shortly after the Emirati Embassy said on Twitter that UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba urged the Biden administration to restore the designation in response to Monday’s strikes on Abu Dhabi airport and a fuel depot.

Asked if he supported returning the Iran-backed Houthis to the US list of foreign terrorist organizations, from which they were removed nearly a year ago, Biden replied, “The answer is, it’s under consideration.”

But he conceded that “it’s going to be very difficult” to end the conflict.

Biden’s comment reflected the lack of progress toward ending the war since he launched an initiative shortly after taking office a year ago to bolster UN efforts to restart peace talks.

The UAE welcomed Biden’s comment, with the Emirati Embassy writing on Twitter: “Case is clear — launching ballistic and cruise missiles against civilian targets, sustaining aggression, diverting aid to Yemeni people.”

Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Al-Jaber said on Twitter on Thursday that the UN and the global community must not show leniency and must instead hold the Houthi movement accountable because “it encourages other terrorist organizations to act similarly.”

Yemeni government officials and analysts on Thursday also welcomed Biden’s stance.

Najeeb Ghallab, an undersecretary at the Information Ministry, told Arab News that the US administration has realized that the delisting of the Houthi movement as a terrorist group has neither led to activating diplomatic efforts to end the war nor contributed to alleviating the humanitarian crisis.

“The Houthis have foiled practically all diplomatic efforts and aggravated the humanitarian crisis. It appeared to the Americans that the Houthis are exploiting the humanitarian crisis to prolong the war,” Ghallab said, adding that the Houthi missile, drone and ground attacks inside and outside Yemen have increased by 400 percent since early last year when Biden’s administration removed the Houthis from the terror list.

In 2021, the Houthis renewed a military offensive to seize control of the oil-rich city of Marib that has claimed the lives of thousands of people and displaced thousands of families.

“The designation would strike the Iran-allied wing within the movement and would push them into reviewing their decisions. If the Americans seek to rescue Yemen and protect regional and international security, they should designate the Houthis as a terrorist organization,” Ghallab said.

The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen vowed on Thursday to hunt down the Houthi leaders responsible for masterminding deadly strikes in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The coalition announced launching a large-scale military operation in Yemen to neutralize the military capabilities of the Houthis, pledging to track down Houthi leaders who staged missile and drone strikes inside and outside Yemen.

“We are tracking terrorist leaders responsible for targeting civilians,” the coalition said, adding that it launched 21 airstrikes in the province of Marib that killed 60 Houthis during the past 24 hours.

The coalition has stepped up airstrikes against Houthi military targets across Yemen, hitting military facilities in Sanaa and Dhamar and destroying weapons depots in the western city of Hodeidah during the past 24 hours.

Residents in Houthi-held Sanaa on Wednesday night reported hearing thunderous explosions as the coalition’s warplanes targeted military camps and other military facilities inside and on the capital’s northern outskirts.

The coalition’s warplanes also struck Houthi military reinforcements and gatherings in Marib, enabling government troops to push back the militia’s attacks.

Fighting intensified on key battlefields in Marib as the Houthis renewed attacks on government troops.

Local officials and media reports said that the Houthis attacked government troops in areas south of Marib in a bid to seize back strategic mountains from loyalists and break a siege on their forces on the Al-Balaq Al-Sharqi mountain range.

With the help of coalition warplanes, government troops repelled the Houthi attacks after killing and wounding dozens of them.

The Giants Brigades also foiled Houthi counterattacks on the outskirts of Hareb town, south of Marib.

In the northern province of Saada, the Houthi movement’s heartland, Yemen’s Defense Ministry on Thursday announced expelling the Houthis from a number of locations in Al-Safra district, west of Saada, shortly after launching an attack to liberate new areas in the province.

Local media reports said on Thursday that the death toll from the Houthi missile attack on a fuel station in an area between Marib and Shabwa rose to four after the death of two critically wounded civilians.

On Wednesday, a missile fired by the Houthis landed at a fuel station, east of Hareb, triggering an explosion that killed two people and critically wounded several others. Another missile launched by the Houthis ripped through a school on Wednesday in the southern city of Taiz, killing a student and wounding five more.


World powers in Berlin insist Iran deal still possible

World powers in Berlin insist Iran deal still possible
Updated 35 min 12 sec ago

World powers in Berlin insist Iran deal still possible

World powers in Berlin insist Iran deal still possible
  • German FM Annalena Baerbock said “urgent progress” was needed in talks aimed at rescuing the deal
  • Le Drian complained that progress in the meetings was “partial, timid and slow”

BERLIN: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and European allies insisted it was still possible to revive the Iran nuclear deal but said “time is running out,” after talks in Berlin Thursday.
Blinken told reporters that negotiators working in Vienna to salvage the 2015 accord with Tehran had seen “modest progress in the last couple weeks” but were taking nothing for granted.
“My own assessment, talking to all of our colleagues, is that returning to mutual compliance, it remains possible,” Blinken said.
Speaking at a joint news conference, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said “urgent progress” was needed in talks aimed at rescuing the deal.
“The window for finding a solution is closing,” she said.
“The negotiations are in a decisive phase. We need urgent, urgent progress, otherwise we will not be successful in reaching a joint accord.”
Her French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, also in Berlin for talks focused primarily on the Ukraine crisis, warned that “the negotiations cannot go on so slowly” with Tehran.
He complained that the progress in the meetings was “partial, timid and slow,” adding it was crucial to now “pick up the pace” or risk failure.
Blinken agreed it was a “decisive moment” in the negotiations, adding “time is running out” to reach a deal.
Their comments came a day after US President Joe Biden said it was “not time to give up” on the talks with Iran, insisting “there is some progress being made.”
Negotiations to restore the landmark accord between Tehran and world powers — the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany — began last year but stopped in June as Iran elected ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi.
The talks on the accord known as the JCPOA resumed in November.
Blinken last week said there were only “a few weeks left” to save the deal and that the US was ready to look at “other options” if the talks collapse.
The deal offered Iran much-needed relief from sanctions that have crippled its economy, in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
Former US president Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the deal in 2018 prompted Tehran to go back on its commitments.
Tehran is seeking verification of the sanctions easing, as well as guarantees that Washington will not withdraw from the deal again.
Baerbock said progress was being hobbled by the fact that “Iran, parallel to the talks, unfortunately continues to turn the spiral of nuclear escalation.”
Western powers have complained about slow progress in the talks at a time when Iran has accelerated its nuclear work, for example increasing uranium enrichment.
The West wants Iran to meet a number of requirements including destroying its advanced centrifuges.
The meeting in Berlin came a month after a new German center-left-led government took power to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel, who led Europe’s biggest economy for 16 years.


US won’t resume assistance to Sudan without civilian government —

US won’t resume assistance to Sudan without civilian government —
Updated 20 January 2022

US won’t resume assistance to Sudan without civilian government —

US won’t resume assistance to Sudan without civilian government —
  • US will consider measures to hold accountable those responsible for failure to move forward on transition
  • Sudan’s Sovereign Council has agreed on forming a national independent technocratic government

KHARTOUM: The United States will not resume economic assistance to Sudan that was paused after a coup unless there is an end to violence and a civilian-led government is restored, a statement posted by the US embassy in Khartoum on Thursday said.
The statement, issued during a visit to Sudan by two senior US envoys, said the United States would consider measures to hold accountable those responsible for a failure to move forward on a political transition and create a “peaceful environment” for it to proceed. It did not say what such measures could involve.
During their visit, Assistant Secretary of State Molly Phee and Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa David Satterfield called for independent investigations into deaths and injuries among those protesting against the military since the Oct. 25 coup.
“They strongly condemned the use of disproportionate force against protesters, especially the use of live ammunition and sexual violence and the practice of arbitrary detention,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, Sudan's Sovereign Council has agreed with the US delegation on amending the constitutional document governing Sudan's transition to democracy to bring it into line with new developments in the country, it said in a statement on Thursday.
The Sovereign Council, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, also agreed on forming a national independent technocratic government and starting a comprehensive national dialogue to end the current political crisis. 
October’s military takeover interrupted a transition that began after the ouster of former leader Omar Al-Bashir in a 2019 uprising and was meant to lead to democratic elections.