Military forces from the United Arab Emirates have deployed and ‘occupied’ sea and airports on the Yemeni island of Socotra, in what Yemeni officials have described as ‘an act of aggression’.
100 troops and four military planes, allegedly carrying tanks, armoured transports and heavy equipment, were deployed earlier this week, with Emirati forces expelling Yemeni soldiers from the island’s airport.
The Arab state has been gradually exerting more influence over the island in recent years during its involvement in the Yemeni Civil War, supplying the island with aid following a cyclone in 2015, building a military base and intelligence communications centre on the island and flying inhabitants to Abu Dhabi for free for access to healthcare.
Al-Jazeera reports that the flag of the UAE and images of leader Crown Prince bin Zayed Al Nahyan have been displayed on official buildings and along busy roads.
Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr condemned the move by the UAE on social media, claiming the country had escalated the situation beyond ‘reality and logic’.
The UAE claim to have a 99-year lease of the archipelago – something which the Yemeni government strongly denies.
The Emirati Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed that it has no ambitions in Yemen beyond supporting its security and stability, adding that the latest deployment on the island is part of its role to restore Yemen’s internationally recognised government.
The news comes amid growing tension between the two countries. Earlier this year, the Yemeni tourist board accused the UAE of stoking separatism on the island, claiming they had tried to convince islanders to hold a referendum of self-determination and, just this week, Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi accused Emirati forces of behaving like occupiers of Yemen, rather than liberators.