UAE calls for Iran talks, says Houthis have role in Yemen

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Kuwait - Yasmine El Tohamy - ABU DHABI: A top UAE official yesterday said Arab Gulf states should take part in “collective diplomacy” to reach an agreement with Iran amid increased tensions between Washington and Tehran. UAE state minister of foreign affairs Anwar Gargash’s statements come following a string of attacks that Washington and its allies blamed on Tehran. Iran denies the allegations. Animosity between the Islamic republic and the United States has soared since President Donald unilaterally abandoned a landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Iran and reimposed crippling US sanctions.

“When it comes to dealing with Iran, we should not fall for the false choice between war on the one hand or a flawed (nuclear deal) on the other,” Gargash said. “This moment requires a renewed, robust and realistic diplomatic effort to reach a more sustainable agreement,” Gargash told a political conference in Abu Dhabi. Garagash said escalation serves no one. “We strongly believe that there is room for collective diplomacy to succeed,” he said, adding that talks with Iran should involve the international community as well as Arab Gulf states.
“Gulf states would need to be at the negotiating table,” he said. A “meaningful political process” was needed, he said. “For such a process to work, it is essential that the international community is on the same page, especially the US and the EU, as well as the Arab Gulf states.” A US-led naval coalition officially launched operations in Bahrain Thursday to protect shipping in the troubled waters of the Gulf after a string of attacks that Washington and its allies blamed on Iran.

The latest attack was on Sept 14 against two key Saudi oil installation that temporarily knocked out half of the kingdom’s production. Iran denied any involvement in the attacks which were claimed by the Tehran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The UAE is part of a Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthis in Yemen.

Gargash also said the Houthi rebels will have a role in their country’s future, voicing optimism that a recent peace deal between the government and southern separatists could lead to a wider solution. The comments were the latest conciliatory move in the long-running Yemen conflict, after the Iran-backed Houthis offered in September to halt attacks on Saudi Arabia.

Gargash urged all sides to maintain momentum for a political solution. “Such an agreement must take account of the legitimate aspirations of all parts of Yemeni society. That includes the Houthis,” Gargash said at the political conference. “Houthi militias have wreaked havoc on the country, but they are a part of Yemeni society and they will have a role in its future.”

The Houthi rebels have been fighting the internationally recognized government and its allies for more than four years in a war that has pushed the country to the brink of famine. But Gargash said he was hopeful that a power-sharing deal between the government and the secessionist Southern Transitional Council, inked in Riyadh last week, could pave the way for a wider peace deal. “The agreement solidifies the anti-Houthi coalition and provides a more robust basis for reaching a political solution,” he said. “Now we need to build on the momentum this has given us.”

The so-called Riyadh agreement would see Yemen’s government return to Aden – the interim capital seized by separatists in August – and place the forces from both sides under the authority of the defence and interior ministries.

Gargash’s comments came after a rally organized by the Houthi insurgents to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on Saturday drew hundreds of thousands in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, a much larger crowd than last year. Rebel chief Abdulmalik Al-Houthi addressed the crowd via a video message played on a large screen, while many chanted slogans in support of the insurgent leader.

The Iran-backed rebels took Sanaa in 2015, after which Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies intervened in the conflict in support of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi. Since then, tens of thousands of people – most of them civilians – have been killed in a conflict that has triggered what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. – Agencies

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