Iranian Foreign Minister: There are signs that the UAE is pursuing new policies in the region

Iranian Foreign Minister: There are signs that the UAE is pursuing new policies in the region


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said there were indications that the UAE might pursue new policies in the region, saying that "this will be in the interest of its government."

Zarif's remarks came in an interview with iran-funded Al-Mayadeen tv, following reports that the UAE had withdrawn some of its troops from Yemen and an Emirati official announced that his country had moved "from the strategy of military force first to peace first."

Zarif said his country wanted "our neighbors in the region not to go to a new group and to return to its lap," the channel's website reported.

"They are not only making decisions against Iran, but consider what Saudi Arabia and the UAE are doing against Yemen."

"We want not only the UAE but also Saudi Arabia to return to dialogue and cooperation in the region," he said.

"They can certainly go out and are ready to defend them as friends, brothers in religion, neighbors and allies," he said.

A senior UAE official said there was a reduction in the number of its troops in several areas of Yemen as part of the "redeployment" plan for "strategic and tactical" reasons, adding that Abu Dhabi was moving from a "strategy of military force" to a "peace first" plan in Yemen.

"There is a reduction in the number of troops for strategic reasons in Hodeidah (in western Yemen) and for tactical reasons in other areas," the official was quoted as saying by AFP.

"It's about moving from the strategy of military force first to the strategy of peace first," he said.

A military official in Yemen’s internationally recognized government said that the UAE "completely evacuated Al-Khokha Camp, south of Hodeidah, and handed it over to Yemeni forces a few days ago, and withdrew part of its heavy weapons."

"But they (the UAE forces) are still managing the military situation on the west coast fully with the Yemeni forces as part of the Saudi-led coalition operations," he said.

Saudi forces in Yemen have taken measures to secure two strategic ports in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait after its main ally, the UAE, significantly reduced its military presence there, Reuters quoted several informed sources as saying.

The UAE has reduced its forces in some areas of Yemen, where it established large military bases during the four-year war, which is widely regarded as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Two Yemeni military commanders and two Yemeni government officials told Reuters that Saudi officers took over command of military bases in the ports of Al-Mocha and Al-Khokha, which were being used by UAE forces to support the military campaign aimed at controlling nearby Hodeidah areas  and monitoring the coast.

Riyadh has also sent an unspecified number of troops to the coastal city of Aden and to the small volcanic island of Prem in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, a strategic navigation corridor linking the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition and the UAE government did not respond to requests for comment.

"We have no worries about a vacuum in Yemen because we have trained 90,000 Yemeni soldiers in total," a senior Emirati official said about the move this week, this is one of our great successes in Yemen."

The UAE says it remains committed to the coalition and the internationally recognized government in Yemen, adding that the decision to reduce the forces was not the result of the moment but was discussed with Riyadh.

These changes in the command of military bases are not expected to lead to a significant change in the course of the war or a UN-backed ceasefire in Hodeidah last year signed in Sweden between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Iranian-allied Houthis.

These developments coincide with rising tensions between Washington and Tehran as the United States seeks to form a military alliance to protect international navigation from possible Iranian attacks off the coast of Yemen and near the Strait of Hormuz.

On Thursday, three Iranian ships attempted to intercept a British tanker passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz in response to U.S. sanctions seeking to halt Iranian oil exports altogether.

The sources said that UAE forces took control of The Island of Prem in the center of Bab al-Mandab since 2015 when the Saudi-led coalition intervened in the War of Yemen until weeks ago when Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni Coast Guard took control of it.

As a member of the Western-backed coalition to fight the Houthis, the UAE has partnered with Yemeni forces to  control number of cities on Yemen's west coast, creating a narrow strip under coalition control there.

Tens of thousands of Yemeni and Sudanese troops are stationed in the area and on the southern outskirts of Hodeidah, where the warring parties have agreed to a ceasefire to pave the way for talks to end the war.

The UAE has been a key member of the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen since March 2015, supporting Yemeni government forces against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.


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