The United Arab Emirates' involvement in more than a year of war in Yemen is "practically over", a top diplomat was quoted as saying on Wednesday. The UAE is key member of a Saudi-led military coalition which intervened in Yemen in March 2015. It backs the exiled government against the armed Houthi movement, which Saudi Arabia and the UAE fear is a proxy for their regional arch-rival, Iran. "Our position today is clear: the war is practically over for our troops," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash was quoted as saying in a closed-door speech by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed's official twitter account. "We are looking at political arrangements and our political role now is to empower the Yemenis in the liberated areas." A Houthi missile killed more than 60 Gulf Arab troops stationed in central Yemen in September, including 52 Emiratis, the worst loss ever suffered by the UAE military. UAE troops led a Yemeni government offensive against al Qaeda fighters in April, expelling them their base in the southern port city of Mukalla.
Meanwhile, The United Nations said Wednesday it will not give the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen the sources of information that led the coalition to be put on a U.N. blacklist for killing and injuring about 1,200 children in the war-torn country last year. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that it is "paramount" to protect sources of information used in any U.N. report, especially in a conflict area. Therefore, he said, the U.N. will refuse a request from the coalition for sources used for the Yemen section of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's annual report on children and armed conflict. Saudi Arabia's U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi wrote to Ban on behalf of the coalition requesting the sources and other information. Last Thursday, Ban said he temporarily removed the U.S.-backed coalition from the blacklist for violating child rights pending a joint review of cases because its supporters threatened to stop funding many U.N. programs. He accused some unnamed countries of exerting unacceptable and "undue pressure." Ban said he stands by the report, which he said "describes horrors no child should have to face." "We will assess the complaints that have been made, but the content will not change," he said. Ban didn't say explicitly that the coalition could go back on the list after the review. The Saudi ambassador said last week "it is our firm belief that this de-listing is final, irreversible and unconditional." The report said the U.N. verified a total of 1,953 youngsters killed and injured in Yemen in 2015, a six-fold increase compared with 2014, and it attributed about 60 percent of those casualties to the coalition. The U.N. said it also verified 101 attacks on schools and hospitals last year, double the number in 2014, of which 48 percent were attributed to the coalition.
While Saudi Arabia is backing a push on the Houthi-held capital Sanaa in Yemen's northwest, the UAE has focused on stabilizing the southern city of Aden which has suffered repeated attacks by al-Qaida and DAESH militants.