The UAE has taken over Socotra after setting up a military base on the Yemeni island and carrying out extensive social and economic development, the Arabia Magazine said in a report on Friday.
The report wondered if the UAE is merely providing humanitarian and economic aid or it is laying the groundwork for the island’s future “secession” from mainland Yemen.
Socotra dubbed the “Jewel of Arabia,” is located in the Gulf of Aden near the Horn of Africa, 217 miles off the southern coast of Yemen and 817 miles from Abu Dhabi as the crow flies.
Throughout 2016, Emiratis sent planeloads of food and supplies to the inhabitants of Socotra. By October 2016, the 31st planeload of medical and other supplies from the UAE had landed on the island. By March 2017, the UAE had sent millions of dollars to the island, the report added. Yet, these efforts continue to raise questions as to the Gulf country’s long-term intentions.
Since Dubai’s Jebel Ali became the most congested port in the Middle East, the report says, the UAE has started building and expanding other ports in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf to monopolize the area and undermine Iran’s influence as it too tries to gain control of the major shipping channel.
Socotra is strategically located in the middle of one of the world’s most important oil trading routes. The UAE intends to become central to a future East-West trading route, according to academic Andreas Krieg. Socotra’s location would enable the UAE to control the trade that goes through the Suez Canal and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait between Yemen and the Horn of Africa.
The UAE stationed tanks and troops on Socotra in May 2018, seeking to boost its presence and consolidate its power in the channel, it added. In the same month, the UAE established a military base on the island, seizing Socotra’s airport and seaport and building maritime infrastructure and communication networks.
The UAE also conducted a census for the island’s population, took a number of Socotris to Abu Dhabi to receive free medical examinations, and even offered some special permits to work in the UAE.
As the island is home to extraordinary and unique flora and fauna, Abu Dhabi’s move has been seen by some as a quest to transform Socotra not only into a permanent Emirati military base but also an important holiday resort. Emirati businessmen are planning to build luxurious hotels across the island, according to Bethan McKernan, journalist and author of the first witness report on UAE troops in Socotra.
The US-Saudi-UAE aggression is waging a brutal war in northern Yemen and has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, while Socotra, far from the southern coast of Yemen. The UAE has categorically denied all accusations regarding its alleged attempts to undermine Yemen’s sovereignty.
The UAE justified the deployment of its troops in May 2018 by claiming that it was part of “the efforts of the Arab coalition” to support the pro-aggression Yemeni government, the pro-aggression government asserted that there had been no military coordination between it and the UAE, so it requested that Saudi Arabia intervene instead to broker a resolution to the situation in Socotra.
With every day that goes by, the UAE expands its reach in Yemen to become a stronger regional power. However, it remains to be seen whether Abu Dhabi will leave Socotra once the war ends, or whether it will continue to serve its own interests on the island and, maybe one day, even claim it as an Emirati territory.
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