The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is reportedly looting Yemen’s energy resources to pay for recent multi-billion-dollar arms deals with France, which are designed to boost Abu Dhabi’s air power amid its deadly Saudi-led war against Yemen.
Yemen’s al-Khabar al-Yemeni news website, citing informed sources who preferred not to be named, reported that French Ambassador to Yemen Jean-Marie Safa met with a number of UAE-allied tribal chiefs from the southern Yemeni province of Shabwah on Saturday, as part of efforts to restart the main liquefied natural gas (LNG) production facility in the area under a deal with Abu Dhabi.
The report added that the meeting focused on operational measures at the Belhaf LNG facility, where French multinational oil and gas company TotalEnergies SE owns and controls more than 50% of the shares.
Earlier, the new Shabwah provincial governor, Awad Mohammed Abdullah al-Awlaki, had said the Balhaf facility would come on stream in the near future.
The report comes as French Defense Minister Florence Parly tweeted on Friday that Paris would boost the United Arab Emirates’ missile system after a series of retaliatory ballistic missile and drone attacks by Yemeni Armed Forces.
France’s defense ministry said the agreement with Abu Dhabi would see operations conducted from the al-Dhafra air base offering refueling and surface-to-air capacities.
“Aircraft operations are planned … in coordination with the Emirati air forces, to detect and intercept drone strikes or cruise missiles targeting the UAE,” Parly said.
France is also helping the UAE with aerial surveillance using Rafale fighter jets stationed at France’s air base in Abu Dhabi, the ministry said.
France has close economic and political ties with Abu Dhabi and has a permanent military base in the Emirati capital.
It sealed a deal in December to sell 80 Rafale fighter jets to the UAE, the largest ever overseas sale of the French warplane, and 12 helicopters.
Bahrain’s top cleric blasts ‘bloody’ war on Yemen
Meanwhile, Bahrain's most prominent Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim has denounced the “bloody” Saudi-led military aggression on Yemen.
“Under religious principles and human consciousness, the Yemen invasion is dirty in nature. The all-out military aggression against the Yemeni people is being waged at the behest of the authoritarian US government by a Muslim and neighboring country,” he said in a statement.
The senior Bahraini Shia cleric also slammed what he described as the Muslim world’s dissociation from Islamic teachings and values in the face of the unjust Saudi-led war on Yemen.
“The war in Yemen is full-scale aggression. Any Muslim, irrespective of his position, can gauge his faithfulness and piety with the level of concern that he shows to the affairs of Muslims worldwide,” he highlighted.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies, backed by the United States and European powers, launched the war on Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi back to power and crushing the popular Ansarullah resistance movement.
The war has left hundreds of thousands of Yemenis dead and displaced millions more. It has also destroyed Yemen’s infrastructure and spread famine and infectious diseases there.
Despite heavily-armed Saudi Arabia’s incessant bombardment of the impoverished country, the Yemeni armed forces have gradually grown stronger, leaving Riyadh and its allies, most notably the UAE, bogged down in the country.