The United Arab Emirates has said war is over for its troops in Yemen after a nearly 15-month intervention as part of a Saudi-led coalition in which around 80 lost their lives.
The announcement by a government minister, which the crown prince of the UAE’s richest emirate Abu Dhabi then posted on his official Twitter account, came with large swathes of the country, including the capital Sanaa, still in the hands of Iran-backed rebels.
“Our standpoint today is clear — war is over for our troops, we’re monitoring political arrangements (and) empowering Yemenis in liberated areas,” state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said.
His comments came in a speech late on Wednesday to foreign ambassadors and senior Emirati officials, including Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.
Sheikh Mohammed is also deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces.
The UAE was a mainstay of the Saudi-led coalition which intervened in Yemen in March 2015 as the Iran-backed rebels threatened to overrun the whole country, prompting President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee into exile.
The coalition succeeded in pushing the rebels out of southern cities, where Hadi’s government has set up base, but the rebels remain in control of most of the central and northern highlands as well as the Red Sea coast.
UN-brokered peace talks are under way in Kuwait but after eight weeks they have made no major breakthrough in the face of deep mistrust between the warring parties.
It was the first time in the UAE’s history that it had deployed ground troops beyond its borders.
In March, UAE special forces also played a major role in driving Al-Qaeda out of the southeastern provincial capital of Mukalla, which it had held for a year.
The jihadists had taken advantage of the conflict between Hadi loyalists and the rebels to seize several cities in the south and southeast.
The intervention cost the lives of UAE air crews as well as ground troops.
In March, a Mirage jet crashed in Yemen killing both its crew. And this week alone, two UAE helicopters crashed with the loss of their four crew.
More than 6,400 Yemenis have been killed since the intervention started, the majority of them civilians.