France voices support for Saudi campaign in Yemen
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius voiced support for a Saudi-led military campaign against Yemen’s Houthi rebels during a visit to Riyadh on Sunday.
In the third week of strikes mounted by Saudi Arabia and its allies, France’s top diplomat said Paris was "naturally on the side of its regional partners for the restoration of stability in Yemen," according to his entourage.
"Concerning Yemen, we are here to demonstrate our support, especially political, to the Saudi authorities," Fabius told reporters as he began a series of meetings with the Saudi leadership including King Salman.
Saudi Arabia, an important ally of France, leads a coalition of nine Arab countries opposed to Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels, who overran the capital Sanaa in September.
Riyadh’s Sunni regime fears the rebels will take over the entire country and move it into the orbit of Shiite Iran, Saudi Arabia's arch-rival in the region.
Clarence Rodriguez, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Riyadh, said the visit by Fabius was also intended to reassure Saudi Arabia of France’s resolve in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme.
Fabius’s hawkish stance in talks with Tehran has won plaudits in Saudi Arabia, where the authorities are alarmed by the prospect of a nuclear Iran.
1,200 air strikes
The French diplomat’s visit came as Saudi air strikes continued to target Houthi forces and their allies in Yemen.
A pre-dawn strike on Sunday hit a rebel camp in Al-Dhahra in the south of Taez province, killing 15, a local medic told AFP news agency.
The base belongs to the elite Republican Guard, which remained loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh after he was forced from power in 2012 following a year of nationwide protests against his three-decade rule.
Saleh has allied his followers with the Houthi rebels in their battle against forces loyal to fugitive President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
The Saudi-led coalition said on Saturday that it had conducted 1,200 air strikes since March 26 and neutralised the air and missile capabilities of the rebels and their allies.
The air campaign, which has been accompanied by a naval blockade, was launched as the rebels closed in on the port city of Aden, southern Yemen’s largest city.
Meanwhile, al Qaeda-linked militants have taken advantage of the security vacuum to seize control of swathes of the country’s southeast.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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