UN ‘alarmed’ over renewed Yemen violence after drone attack

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Yemeni security forces loyal to the Houthis stand guard during a demonstration outside the United Nations office in the capital Sanaa on December 10, 2018. (File/AFP)
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UN envoy Martin Griffiths has urged all parties to Yemen’s protracted conflict to exercise restraint. (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2019
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UN ‘alarmed’ over renewed Yemen violence after drone attack

  • A Houthi drone attacked a Yemeni government military parade in Lahaj province that killed six people
  • The UN was hoping the Sweden talks would help launch formal peace talks between Yemen’s warring parties

DUBAI: The UN envoy to Yemen said he was “alarmed” over the escalation of violence after a rebel drone attack on the country’s largest air base killed six loyalist soldiers.

In tweets posted overnight Thursday Martin Griffiths urged all parties to Yemen’s protracted conflict to exercise restraint.

The Shiite Houthi rebels said they carried out the strike which hit a military parade at Al-Anad air base, in government-held Lahij province some 60 kilometers north of Yemen’s second city Aden.

Six loyalist soldiers were killed and at least 12 people wounded, including top commanders, medics said.

Yemen’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Al-Hadrami on Thursday meanwhile said that repeated violations by the Houthi militia were obstructing peace efforts in Yemen.

Al-Hadrami stressed during his meeting with Junaid Munir, the US Deputy Ambassador to Yemen, the need for the international community, the UN and the Yemen peace process sponsors to condemn the infractions and to have a firm position against the Houthis’ non-compliance.

The attack comes as the UN, which brokered several agreements between the rebels and the Saudi-backed government at talks in Sweden last month, is desperately seeking to relaunch negotiations for an end to four years of devastating conflict.

Griffiths tweeted that he was “alarmed by today’s (Thursday) escalation of violence in Yemen.”

 

He urged “all parties to the conflict to exercise restraint and refrain from further escalation” and to “create a conducive environment to maintain the positive momentum generated” in Sweden.

The UN was hoping last month’s talks in Sweden would help launch formal peace talks between Yemen’s warring parties.

Thursday’s attack is likely to create a new obstacle for those efforts.

The Houthis said in November they were halting drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni government forces. However, the Saudi-led Arab coalition has reported several attempted missile attacks iin recent weeks, and accused the Houthis of committing numerous violations of the Hodeidah agreement.

In Sweden, the warring sides agreed truce deals for the key rebel-held aid port of Hodeidah and for battleground third city Taiz.

The Houthis last month claimed to have pulled out of Hodeidah port in compliance with the pact, but the UN had expressed doubts until other concerned parties have made verified the credibility of such move.

The drone strike drew condemnation from the UAE, a key contributor to the Saudi-led military coalition fighting the rebels.

The “murderous drone attack tells you everything you need about the Houthis. Peace negotiations are a tactic to them, not a commitment,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted.

“464 cease-fire violations, 36 killed & 318 wounded since (Sweden) agreement. The international community must increase pressure,” he said, blaming the Houthis for the slow progress of peace efforts.

The war between the Houthis and loyalist troops escalated in March 2015, when President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled into Saudi exile, prompting the Saudi-led coalition to intervene.

The conflict has killed nearly 10,000 people and pushed some 14 million Yemenis to the brink of famine in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN.


Erdogan: Turkey’s S-400 missile systems purchase from Russia ‘done deal’

Updated 43 min 52 sec ago
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Erdogan: Turkey’s S-400 missile systems purchase from Russia ‘done deal’

ANKARA: Turkey will not turn back from its deal to buy S-400 missile systems from Russia, President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Saturday, a day after an informal deadline Washington set for Ankara to respond to a rival offer passed.
NATO member Turkey has repeatedly said it is committed to buying the Russian missile defense system, despite warnings from the US-led alliance that the S-400s cannot be integrated into the NATO air defense system.
US officials had set an informal deadline of February 15 for Ankara to respond to the rival US offer and have said that if Turkey proceeds with the S-400 purchase, Washington will withdraw its offer to sell a $3.5 billion Raytheon Co. Patriot missile package.
They have also said it would jeopardize Turkey’s purchase of Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 fighter jets and possibly result in the United States imposing sanctions.
However, speaking to reporters on the flight back from the Russian resort of Sochi, where a three-way summit on Syria between Turkey, Russia and Iran was held, Erdogan said Ankara would press on with the S-400 purchases.
“We made the S-400 deal with Russia, so it out of the question for us to turn back. That’s done,” Erdogan said, according to broadcaster NTV.
He said Turkey was open to purchasing Patriot systems from the United States as long as the deal served Turkey’s interests, but added there were issues on delivery and production that were still being discussed with Washington.
“The US administration views the early delivery issue positively, but they won’t say anything about joint production or a credit. We continue our work based on the promise of the S-400 deliveries in July.”
The formal US offer for Turkey’s purchase of Patriot systems expires at the end of March, US officials have told Reuters, after which a new offer would have to be submitted.
The US asked Turkey to give at least an informal answer on whether it would go ahead with its S-400 purchase by February 15, one US official said.
It was not immediately clear whether Turkey had responded to the US offer.