DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A top diplomat in the United Arab Emirates stepped back early Friday from his previous comments that the country’s part in the Saudi-led war in Yemen was “over.”
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash’s remarks come as peace talks in Kuwait City have yet to end the war in the Arab world’s poorest nation, where Shiite rebels known as Houthis still hold the capital, Sanaa. That’s despite numerous airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition and a ground operation in the country.
The state-run WAM news agency quoted Gargash early Friday morning as making the comments in London.
“We are at war. I am appalled that my statement was taken out of context and misinterpreted for (an) external agenda that seek to undermine the region and the (Gulf Cooperation Council) in particular,” Gargash said.
However, Gargash’s comments first came to light via a tweet Wednesday from Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a powerful figure in the UAE’s federation of seven sheikhdoms and the deputy supreme commander of the country’s military. Sheikh Mohammed’s tweet quoted Gargash as saying the war was “over for our troops” during a private lecture at a royal gathering.
The UAE, which has one of the best-equipped militaries in the region, has seen more than 80 of its soldiers killed since the Saudi-led military campaign began in March 2015, according to Emirati government media reports. The UAE has been among the most active members of the Saudi campaign.
Yemen’s civil war has killed some 9,000 people since March 2015 — a third of them civilians, according to the United Nations. The U.N. says more than 80 percent of Yemenis are in dire need of food, water and other aid.