Hundreds of UAE soldiers withdraw from deadly Yemen conflict

Hundreds of UAE soldiers withdraw from deadly Yemen conflict
Hundreds of UAE soldiers withdraw from deadly Yemen conflict

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Hundreds of Emirati soldiers returned home on Sunday after years of taking part in a Saudi and UAE-led military campaign in Yemen that has triggered the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

In a ceremony held at Zayed Military City in Abu Dhabi, troops were received by senior Emirati officials including head Al-Maktoum and the UAE's de-facto ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

A report by Asharq Al-Awsat confirmed the returning troops "constitute the largest number of UAE soldiers serving in the coalition in Yemen".

It is unclear how many Emirati troops remain in Yemen, where the UAE has spearheaded a coalition of countries - alongside Saudi Arabia - to battle Houthi rebels since March 2015.

The UAE itself has been accused by Yemen's Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi government of attempting to occupy the south of the country, where it has established a strong base and trained thousands of fighters.

In 2018, the government accused the UAE of seizing Yemen's Socotra island when it unloaded tanks and troops there.

Saudi Arabia, the main backer of the UN-recognised Yemen government, had to send troops to Socotra to defuse a standoff between Emirati and Hadi forces.

In 2019, Yemen's government accused the UAE of deploying its troops on the archipelago during a visit by Prime Minister Ahmed Bin Daghr.

Last May, Yemen's interior minister criticised the UAE and said it should concentrate on fighting the Houthis instead.

Despite what is projected as a united front between Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, cracks in the Saudi-Emirati alliance showed last year after the UAE-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council turned on Hadi and seized Aden, leading to weeks of infighting before a truce was declared.

The coalition itself has faced global controversy for its activities in Yemen, which has unleashed the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN, which says 80 percent of the population - 24 million people - are in need of aid. 

Nearly 10 million people are just a step away from famine, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock warned, and figures suggest that more than 100,000 have been killed - more than half of which has been blamed on coalition air strikes on the neighbouring country.

Sudan's 'gradual reduction'

Meanwhile, a Sudanese minister on Monday also announced a gradual reduction of fighting forces in Yemen, noting Khartoum believes the crisis cannot be solved militarily.

Sudan's Minister of Culture and Information Faisal Muhammad Salih suggested the coalition itself is rethinking the conflict, in comments that would explain the UAE’s withdrawal of hundreds of troops.

"There is now a reconsideration of the Yemen war in general, even among the major countries in the coalition, and it was not easy for Sudan to take a sudden decision to withdraw the forces, so a gradual reduction is taking place with the approval of the Arab coalition countries," Saleh said, according to Sputnik.

"There is a conviction that military action will not solve the problem but rather make it more complicated, and we believe that the current efforts will lead very soon to the decline of military action and will be replaced by negotiation and dialogue efforts," he added.

Sudan's transitional government has dramatically downsized the country's troop presence in Yemen this year, but the Sudanese armed forces have fought in the Saudi-led coalition since 2015.

The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces have been accused by rights groups of taking large sums from Saudi Arabia to recruit poor young men - and even children - from Sudan's deprived Darfur region and neighbouring country Chad to serve in Yemen.

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