YEMEN – Saudi Arabia evacuates embassy staff from Yemen (France 24)

Saudi Arabia has joined Western states in evacuating diplomatic staff from Yemen after a power grab by the Shiite Houthi militia earlier this month. French, British and US embassy staff were also urged to leave this week.
The move reflects the hostility of Yemen’s majority Sunni neighbours towards the Iranian-backed Houthis.Riyadh has suspended all work at its embassy in Sanaa and evacuated its staff “due to the deterioration of the security and political situation”, state news agency SPA reported on Friday, citing an official at the foreign ministry. The kingdom, Yemen’s northern neighbour, is the first Arab country to evacuate embassy staff from the capital.
Germany and Italy also said they had closed their embassies following similar steps by Britain, France and the United States as the Houthis consolidated their control by dissolving parliament last week after seizing most of Sanaa in September.
A German foreign ministry spokeswoman said Berlin had shut down its mission on Thursday and that staff had left on Friday.
“In the past weeks the Houthis have seized power – this is unacceptably dangerous for us and could have consequences for the region,” she said. “The situation is very concerning for us in Europe.”
Italy also said it had closed its embassy, citing a breakdown in security. It was withdrawing its ambassador and staff, the foreign ministry in Rome said.
Al Qaeda and other Sunni Muslim militants have stepped up attacks against Houthi fighters and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday that Yemen was “collapsing before our eyes” and slipping closer to outright civil war. He also called for the return of Yemen’s Western-backed president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who resigned soon after his palace was seized by the rebels in January.
UN-backed negotiations on a political settlement continued in Sanaa on Friday.
Thousands of Yemenis gathered after prayers in the mainly Sunni cities of Taaz, Ibb, al-Bayda and al-Hodeidah to denounce the Houthi takeover, witnesses said.
Riyadh, along with other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, have accused the Houthi rebels of staging a coup in Yemen after they announced they were dissolving parliament and forming a new government last week.
Elsewhere in the country, al Qaeda-linked fighters seized a large army base in a dawn attack in the southern province of Shabwa on Thursday after several hours of heavy clashes.
In response, tribal fighters took over two other army barracks in Shabwa on Friday to prevent al Qaeda seizing more weapons and avoid a Houthi attack on the south, tribal sources told Reuters.
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