Turkey has voiced concern over the recent developments in Yemen’s Socotra after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) deployed forces to the island, saying they pose a threat to the country’s sovereignty.
Earlier this month, the UAE deployed some 300 soldiers, along with tanks and artillery, to Socotra amid widening divisions with the Riyadh-sponsored forces loyal to the former Yemeni president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
“We are closely following the recent developments in Yemen’s Socotra Island,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday, without explicitly referring to the UAE.
“We are concerned about these developments that pose a new threat to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Yemen,” the ministry added.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are key members of a coalition that has been waging a deadly war on Yemen since March 2015 in support of Hadi and against the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
The war has killed and injured over 600,000 civilians, according to the Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights. The Saudi-led aggression triggered what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
“We think that Yemen… cannot afford new problems and disputes,” said the Turkish ministry.
It also urged “all relevant actors” to “avoid steps that would further complicate the solution” of the crisis.
The UAE deployment came amid widening divisions between forces loyal to the UAE and those supporting the former Yemeni president. Both camps are based in southern Yemen and mostly in Aden as the capital Sana’a still remains under the control of the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
Hadi’s loyalists have accused the UAE of abandoning an initial cause of fighting the Houthis, saying Emirati forces are instead providing support to those seeking a separation of Yemen’s southern territories from the north of the country.
Reports have suggested that the UAE has been actively cementing its presence in Socotra since the very beginning of the Saudi-led campaign against Yemen in March 2015.
Socotra, located near Somalia in the Gulf of Aden, is protected by the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO as a world heritage site, meaning that even the Yemeni government is not allowed to interfere in the natural habitats and places of natural beauty in the area.
Some say the UAE is seeking to illegally exploit the natural resources of the island and turn the place into a tourism hub.
The last week deployment sparked angry reactions among residents of Socotra as reports suggested that people had taken to the streets to protest the increasing presence of the UAE forces.