Rabat has suspended its participation in a Saudi-led military coalition that has been fighting Yemen's Houthi rebel group since 2015, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita confirmed Wednesday evening. Speaking to Al-Jazeera, Bourita attributed the move to Rabat's assessment of "developments on the ground" in Yemen, "especially in regards to the humanitarian situation."
According to the foreign minister, Rabat had already scaled down its participation in coalition activities in May of 2015 after a Moroccan F-16 crashed in Yemen with the Houthis claiming to have shot down the aircraft.
Morocco has not participated in recent coalition exercises, nor has it taken part in recent meetings between representatives of coalition member states, Bourita told Al-Jazeera. In early January, the Moroccan contingent was absent, for the second time in a row, from Saudi-hosted "Red Wave" military exercises.
Yemen lies beside the southern mouth of the Red Sea, one of the most important trade routes in the world for oil tankers. It has been wracked by conflict for the last five years since Shiite Houthi rebels overran much of the country. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the former Saudi defense minister, and Saudi Arabia's allies launched Operation Decisive Storm in March 2015. Civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict. The last available U.N. figure for the civilian death toll was published in 2016 and stood at more than 10,000. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, which tracks violence in Yemen, puts it at around 57,000 people.