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Yemen minister contradicts White House: 'No safe zones discussed'

Mekhlafi said there was no need for safe zones in Yemen [TNA]

Date of publication: 3 February, 2017

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Yemen's Foreign Minister has denied reports that US President Donald Trump has called for "safe zones" in Yemen.

Yemen's Foreign Minister has denied reports that US President Donald Trump has called for "safe zones" in Yemen.

Abdel Malek al-Mekhlafi told The New Arab this week during an interview in Qatar that the reports were "journalistic errors".

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia's King Salman, in a telephone call with Trump, reportedly agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, a White House statement said.

"I want to clarify the reports have been journalistic errors because Trump and the Saudi King Salman did not speak about safe zones in Yemen," Mekhlafi said.

"They did speak about the situation in Yemen in general and safe zones in Syria. In Yemen it would be illogical and unjustified to have safe zones," he added.

The minister explained that unlike Syria his country did not have a crisis of internally displaced people and that safe zones would limit the activities of the Saudi-led aerial campaign against Houthi rebels.

"There are common interests between Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the US, such as fighting al-Qaeda and the Houthis," he added.

Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi met with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Monday in Doha to discuss strengthening bilateral relations.

Mekhlafi said that the Emir had expressed his desire to provide as much as possible to ensuring stability in Yemen and that Qatari authorities were considering providing $1 billion to aid the sharp decline in the Yemeni Central Bank's foreign reserves.

Yemen has been riven by conflict since March 2015 when a Saudi-backed coalition began bombing raids against Houthi rebels who had seized the capital Sanaa from government control.

The resulting lawlessness has allowed groups such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State group to gain territory.

Trump has expressed interest in setting up safe zones in Syria to house refugees, and during his presidential campaign he called for Gulf states to pay for establishing the protected areas.

US media reported on Thursday that the Pentagon would be given 90 days to draw up a plan to set up "safe zones" in or near Syria where refugees from the nation's civil war can shelter.

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