China’s foreign ministry has expressed concern after Yemen’s armed Shia Houthi movement and its political allies formed a new government, in what appeared a blow to UN-backed efforts to end 20 months of war in the country.
Diplomats had hoped the Houthis, who control the capital Sana’a, would hold off on putting together a cabinet of their loyalists and instead form a unity government with their Yemeni foes loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
The Houthis, who control territory with more than half of Yemen’s population, previously said forming a government with their allies did not mean abandoning the UN-sponsored peace process.
The flight of Hadi, the internationally recognised president, triggered a military intervention by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia that has carried out thousands of airstrikes on the Houthis, succeeding in rolling them back in many areas but failing to dislodge them from Sana’a.
In a statement late yesterday, China’s foreign ministry said it supported Yemen’s legal government.
“We do not approve of any side in Yemen taking any unilateral actions that complicate the situation, and believe this is not beneficial to a political resolution of the Yemen issue,” the ministry said in a short statement.
China hopes relevant parties in Yemen continue dialogue to resolve their differences and reach an equitable settlement all sides can accept on the basis of United Nations resolutions and Gulf Cooperation Council initiatives, it added.
China relies on the Middle East for oil but has tended to leave Middle Eastern diplomacy to the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Britain, France and Russia.
However, China has been trying to get more involved, especially in Syria, and has taken tentative steps over the Yemen crisis too. China also has close ties with Iran.
In January, while Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Saudi Arabia, both countries affirmed their support for the unity, independence and sovereignty of Yemen and support for its internationally recognised government.
Riyadh is angry that the Houthis, a proxy for bitter regional rival Iran, are allowing Tehran to expand its influence in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula nation. The Houthis deny this and say they are waging a revolution against a corrupt government and Gulf Arab powers beholden to the West.