The UAE, part of a Saudi-led Arab military alliance in Yemen, on Monday warned Houthi rebels to withdraw from the key port city of Hodeida as coalition-backed government forces advance.
The "Hodeida port operation will continue unless rebels withdraw unconditionally," UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash told a press conference in Dubai.
He said the Arab coalition, which last week launched an assault to oust the Iran-backed insurgents from the Red Sea port city, has kept the Hodeida-Sanaa road "open for the Houthi militias to withdraw".
Gargash said the operation aims to pressure the Houthis to withdraw from the city and avoid civilian casualties.
Speaking after United Nations ceasefire efforts in Yemen appeared to have fizzled over the weekend, he said the assault aims "to help the UN envoy (Martin Griffiths) in his last chance to convince the Houthis to withdraw unconditionally from the city and avoid any confrontation," he said.
"If this does not happen, be assured we are determined to achieve our targets," he said. "This is not the time to negotiate."
Gargash also accused Iran of using Hodeida port to smuggle sophisticated arms to the Houthis, including ballistic missiles, scores of which have been fired on Saudi Arabia.
The "Iranian fingerprint is all over these arms," he said.
He also denied that French troops have been helping the Arab coalition to take Hodeida, but admitted that France has offered to remove mines when it becomes necessary.For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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