Yemen has strongly condemned a recent move by the United Arab Emirates to transfer Israeli tourists to the strategic island of Socotra on Emirati visas.
The Yemeni Tourism Ministry said in a statement issued on Monday that the UAE's measure violates international law, given that Socotra is a Yemeni island occupied by the aggressor countries of the Saudi-led coalition, Saba Net news agency reported.
"The transfer of tourists to the Socotra Island reveals the plans and programs of the occupying UAE, which are in line with the Zionist schemes to dominate Yemeni islands as well as the steps towards normalization with the regime,” it said.
Two weeks ago, Yemeni sources said the UAE is continuing to operate weekly direct flights and tours to Socotra without authorization from the government.
Hundreds of foreign tourists have arrived on the archipelago over the past few days using visas granted to them by Abu Dhabi, the sources added.
The development came more than eight months after the UAE established full diplomatic relations with the Tel Aviv regime in a deal brokered by former US president Donald Trump.
Home to some 60,000 people, Socotra overlooks the Bab al-Mandab Strait, a main shipping route that connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. It has a unique ecosystem and been listed by UNESCO as a world natural heritage site.
Last June, the UAE-backed separatists of the so-called Southern Transitional Council (STC) took control of the resource-rich island in a move described as a “coup” by the regime of former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
Now, the Emiratis have a military base in Socotra that is used to collect intelligence on maritime traffic in the Bab el-Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden. Moreover, they are reportedly working with the Israelis to set up spy bases on the Yemeni island.
The occupation of Socotra came two months after the UAE-backed separatists broke with once-allied Saudi-sponsored pro-Hadi militants in Yemen, saying they would establish a self-ruled administration in the war-torn country’s southern regions.
The infighting has dealt a blow to the Riyadh-led military coalition, which has been engaged in a military campaign against Yemen since March 2015 with the aim of reinstalling Hadi in Sana’a.
The Western-sponsored bombing campaign has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and plunged the impoverished state into what the UN says is the world's worst humanitarian crisis.