Yemeni sources have revealed that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is trying to establish control over the strategic island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea, which resigned president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi had rented out to the Persian Gulf kingdom for nearly a century.
The sources, requesting anonymity, said numerous Emirati envoys had already been sent to the island, and were paying large amounts of cash to local authorities, influential figures and tribal leaders to win their approval.
Earlier this month, Ramzy Mahrous, the deputy governor of Socotra, told al-Araby al-Jadeed newspaper that Abu Dhabi-based Rotana Jet airline had started direct flights to the Yemeni island.
The airline now operates two flights per week on Saturdays and Wednesdays to and from the territory.
Socotra is one of the biggest Yemeni islands in the Indian Ocean, and lies near the Gulf of Aden and some 350 kilometers from the Arabian Peninsula.
The island was part of Yemen’s eastern province of Hadhramaut but it was introduced as an independent province in a 2013 presidential decree.
There are reports that the former Yemeni government leased the islands of Socotra and Abd al-Kuri to the UAE for 99 years before resigning and fleeing the country to Riyadh in 2014.
No flights have apparently taken place between Socotra and Yemeni cities ever since Saudi Arabia launched its aerial bombardment campaign against its impoverished southern neighbor.
Saudi Arabia has been incessantly pounding Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to bring back power to Hadi and undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
The Riyadh regime has, however, failed to reach its goals despite suffering great expense.
The military aggression has claimed the lives of more than 12,000 people, most of them civilians.