Yemen says UAE building new military base in occupied Socotra Archipelago
The Ansarallah resistance group has warned that securing Yemen's maritime sovereignty will be a priority in the next stage of the battle against Saudi and Emirati forces
By News Desk - April 01 2023

Satellite image over Socotra Island. (Photo Credit: NASA World Wind)

Yemen’s Ministry of Fisheries in the Sanaa-based National Salvation Government (NSG) on 31 March strongly condemned the transformation of Abd al-Kuri island in the Socotra Archipelago into a UAE military base.

Ministry officials revealed to Al-Masirah TV that “new Emirati forces arrived at Hadiboh Airport [in the main island of Socotra], in preparation for their transfer to Abd al-Kuri Island,” where satellite images show new military installations are currently being built.

“The [Saudi-led coalition] occupies some of Yemen’s islands and beaches, destroys the environment, and displaces our people,” the NSG officials added before calling on the UN and other international organizations to “take responsibility for the attack on the Yemeni islands, their occupation, and the expulsion of our people by the countries of the aggression coalition.”

Yemen’s Socotra archipelago has become a focal point of regional and international interest in recent years due to its strategic proximity to one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the Suez Canal. Around 21,000 shipping vessels, including 9 percent of the world’s annual global petroleum supply, pass around Socotra annually.

The Yemeni islands also lie on seaways from Pakistan’s Gwadar port — a stepping stone on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that gives Beijing access to the Arabian Sea — and is adjacent to Djibouti and east Africa.

According to an in-depth investigation by The Cradle columnist Karim Shami, on 30 April 2018, the UAE deployed hundreds of troops with artillery and armored vehicles to Socotra island, which is located 350 km away from mainland Yemen, without any prior coordination with their coalition partners.

Two years later, Yemeni separatists from the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) forcibly seized control of Socotra and ousted the Saudi-backed forces. The Emirati flag was raised across the territory, and UAE telecommunication companies replaced Yemeni ones.

In the months that followed the Emirati takeover of Socotra, the UAE signed a normalization agreement with Israel. Not long after this, reports and images of Israeli “tourists” visiting Socotra began to emerge. According to an Al-Mayadeen reporthowever, the Israeli visitors were not tourists but military experts.

In February 2023, Ansarallah released a statement condemning the UAE’s eviction of residents from Abd al-Kuri, the archipelago’s second-largest island. The Yemeni resistance group accused Abu Dhabi of carrying out a long-planned operation to transform Socotra into an Israeli-Emirati military and intelligence hub.

According to Shami, the Emirati takeover of Socotra can be attributed to the strategic vision of UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) and “his no-longer secret desire to establish an Emirati maritime empire –from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea – by controlling the region’s key waterways.”

On top of this, Israeli military presence in the archipelago is likely meant to counter Iran’s expanding naval presence in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.

Yemen’s Minister of Defense, Major General Mohammad al-Atifi, recently warned that the maritime security of Yemens’ territorial waters will be a priority in the next stage of the battle against the Saudi-led coalition, and specifically mentioned “the Bab Al-Mandab Strait, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, and the territorial extension of the Socotra archipelago.”

“We have options for which no one can blame us if we resort to them because we have provided all means to reach a positive end [to the conflict], but the enemy refuses,” the defense chief said.

“We are witnessing today hostile, conspiratorial, and sabotage actions and siege are sure testimony that aggression does not want to establish any form of peace and does not have any real willingness to think positively about stability and peace in the region and respect the will of Yemeni people,” he added, according to Al-Masirah TV.

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