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UAE deploys troops to Yemen's Socotra island

07 May 2018

Meeting takes place amid rising anger among Yemenis over deployment of UAE forces and military craft on pristine island.

According to a Yemeni government official speaking to Al Jazeera, UAE forces have occupied sea and airports on the remote island, and blocked Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher from leaving on Friday.

A first meeting between a Saudi delegation and representatives of the Yemeni government on the Yemeni island of Socotra has ended without results, a Yemeni source said.

The UAE is a key partner in a Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting Huthi rebels since 2015 to restore Yemen's internationally recognised government to power.

When a powerful cyclone struck Socotra in November 2015, killing three people and injuring about 100, the UAE provided rescue and aid efforts.

The apparent surprise deployment was carried out without the knowledge of the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, which controls the island, a Yemeni government source told AFP. Direct flights have also been set up from Abu Dhabi to Socotra.

Emirati Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said that the UAE has historic and family ties to Socotra.

The island has been largely neglected by Yemeni authorities since the start of the war against the Houthi rebels, who seized the capital Sanaa in 2014, and the UAE has been offering support to the island's residents, including offering them trips to the Emirates to receive medical treatment.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Dagher's statement was delivered "in a manner that goes counter to reason and realities on ground and does not do justice to the monumental efforts the UAE is making within the Saudi-led Arab coalition in support of Yemen, and its stability and security".

And it is not just in southern Yemen: the Arab Gulf country has been expanding its military influence across the Red Sea and Horn of Africa regions.

The move has rocked the coalition that is defending the government of Yemen from an Iran-backed rebel insurgency.

UAE deploys troops to Yemen's Socotra island