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Arab League Summit Opens With Focus On Yemen

  • RFE/RL

Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi

Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi

A summit of Arab League nations started March 28 in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi calling for the creation of a joint Arab military force to confront regional security threats.

Arab leaders were meeting to discuss the crisis in Yemen and possible responses to resolve the chaos there.

Violence has been spreading across Yemen since last year when Iran-backed Shi'ite Huthi militia groups seized the capital, Sanaa, and effectively removed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia led a coalition of Arab countries in launching air strikes on Huthi positions in Yemen, particularly around Sanaa.

Sisi spoke of an "unprecedented threat to the Arab identity" and said intervention in Yemen was "inevitable" due to the meddling of a "foreign power."

Yemeni President Hadi is attending the summit after he was forced to flee his country on March 25.

Hadi said the foreign power meddling in the region was Iran and he called the Huthi rebels "stooges of Iran."

Hadi called on Arab leaders to continue the attacks on Huthi positions until the rebels surrendered and appealed to the army and people in Yemen to obey the legitimate leadership of the country.

Saudi King Salman vowed the military campaign would continue until it "achieves its goals for the Yemeni people to enjoy security."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was attending the summit and urged a peaceful resolution to the Yemen crisis.

Ban said negotiations were the only way to avoid a long conflict in Yemen.

The summit opened after Saudi Arabia announced its navy had evacuated diplomats and other foreign nationals from the Yemeni port city of Aden earlier in the day.

Saudi Arabia also announced one of its F-15 warplanes had gone down in the waters off the southern coast of Yemen, but Saudi officials said the pilots had ejected and been picked up by a U.S. naval vessel in the area.

The Saudi-led coalition continued to pound Huthi positions in Yemen for a third straight day.

Air strikes were reported near Sanaa and Aden.

The Saudi-led coalition includes Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Pakistan.

Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV reported Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Pakistan were prepared to participate in a ground offensive in Yemen.

The leaders were not only discussing the threat of Iranian-backed Shi'ite groups in the region.

Egypt's Sisi mentioned militant groups that had gained a foothold in the region in recent years, such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP