Minister disowns comment that UAE's role in Yemen is over

Yemeni tribesmen hold a position during clashes in Taiz. (Ahmad al-Basha, AFP)
Yemeni tribesmen hold a position during clashes in Taiz. (Ahmad al-Basha, AFP)

Dubai - A top diplomat in the United Arab Emirates stepped back early on Friday from his previous comments that the country's part in the Saudi-led war in Yemen was "over".

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash's remarks come as peace talks in Kuwait City have yet to end the war in the Arab world's poorest nation, where Shiite rebels known as Houthis still hold the capital, Sana'a. That's despite numerous airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition and a ground operation in the country.

The state-run WAM news agency quoted Gargash early on Friday morning as making the comments in London.

"We are at war. I am appalled that my statement was taken out of context and misinterpreted for [an] external agenda that seek to undermine the region and the [Gulf Co-operation Council] in particular," Gargash said.

However, Gargash's comments first came to light via a tweet on Wednesday from Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a powerful figure in the UAE's federation of seven sheikhdoms and the deputy supreme commander of the country's military. Sheikh Mohammed's tweet quoted Gargash as saying the war was "over for our troops" during a private lecture at a royal gathering.

The UAE, which has one of the best-equipped militaries in the region, has seen more than 80 of its soldiers killed since the Saudi-led military campaign began in March 2015, according to Emirati government media reports. The UAE has been among the most active members of the Saudi campaign.

Yemen's civil war has killed some 9 000 people since March 2015 - a third of them civilians, according to the United Nations. The UN says more than 80% of Yemenis are in dire need of food, water and other aid.

Later on Friday, a statement from the US Central Command said the military had conducted three counterterrorism airstrikes targeting al-Qaeda's branch in central Yemen between June 8 and June 12, killing six al-Qaeda operatives and wounding one.

Centcom said Yemen's al-Qaeda branch, also known as the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, remains a "significant threat to the region, the United States and beyond" and has a destabilising effect on Yemen, using the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country as a haven from which to plan future attacks.

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