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Russian intrigue: UN Yemen envoy visits Moscow for talks

Cheikh Ahmed was appointed UN Envoy to Yemen in April 2015 [AFP]

Date of publication: 28 February, 2017

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Moscow is seeking to expand its regional influence as shown by developments in Syria, Libya and elsewhere. Is Yemen next on the cards for Russia?
Russia could be the latest diplomatic player looking to end the two-year war in Yemen, as the UN's envoy to the war-torn country Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed paid a visit to Moscow on Monday.

Ahmad held talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov concerning the ongoing conflict in Yemen, according Moscow's foreign ministry.

It follows recent Russian involvement in Syria and Libya's wars. Moscow now appears to be extending its influence to the Yemen conflict where forces aligned to the exiled internationally-recognised government are battling Houthi rebels and loyalists of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh loyalists.

A statement posted on the Russian foreign ministry website revealed that officials discussed the war in Yemen and stressed the need for warring parties to end the two-year conflict. 

Among the conclusions made by Russian and the UN officials was that the exiled government and rebels should re-establish dialogue and work towards a political solution.

Further discussions focused on ways of alleviating a growing humanitarian crisis in Yemen where there are concerns that a widespread famine is imminent.

At least 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since Saudi Arabia entered the conflict in March 2015, after Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sana'a and overthrew President Hadi, according to the UN.

To date UN brokered negotiations have failed to bring about a lasting ceasefire.

In late January, the Houthi-controlled Saba news agency reported that the charge d'affaires of the Russian Embassy in Yemen Andrei Chernfall had held talks with the Houthi's minister of foreign affairs.

It has led to accusations from supporters of the exiled Hadi government that Moscow has adopted a partisan stance in the conflict. 

Russia has heavily criticised Saud Arabia's intervention in the conflict. It has abstained from UN Security Council votes calling for arms embargos against the Iran-backed group and a Saudi-backed resolution demanding Houthi rebels withdraw from all territory seized in their campaign. 

Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin's "positive attitude" towards the Yemen conflict. He also described Moscow as Yemen's "closest kin" in the international community. 

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