ISLAMABAD/RIYADH – Saudi Arabia has formally sought military support from Pakistan to help quell Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have been posing a serious threat to the kingdom’s territorial integrity as reported by agencies.
The request was made at a meeting between the Pakistani delegation, headed by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, and Saudi officials held in Riyadh on Wednesday.
Sources said the Saudi authorities told the Pakistani delegation that its military help had become absolutely necessary to stop the Houthi rebels from further marching on the Saudi border and to secure the territorial integrity of the Kingdom.
Though sources in the Foreign Office and the Defence Ministry remained tightlipped about the outcome of the meetings in Saudi Arabia, it was learnt that the Pakistani delegation assured the Saudi authorities about Islamabad’s concerns regarding the situation in Yemen.
Sources further said that the Pakistani delegation also gave categorical assurance to the Saudi authorities that Pakistan would take all possible measures in case of any threat to territorial integrity and sovereignty of Saudi Arabia.
The delegation is expected to brief Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif about its assessment of the situation in Saudi Arabia as well as in Yemen.
The delegation was sent to Saudi Arabia after threadbare consultations and review on KSA’s request to Pakistan for assistance in the face of Houthi rebels’ threat to the kingdom.
According to reports, the defence minister made it clear that any attempt by the Houthi rebels to attack Saudi Arabia would be given a befitting response.
He added Pakistan considered its religious obligation to protect the holy cities from aggression.
The Mideast media claimed the delegation assured the Saudi authorities that Pakistani troops would be sent to Saudi Arabia and a formal announcement in this regard would be made by high-ups once the delegation returned home.
Quoting Arab media reports, Online news agency said Pakistan had agreed to send its troops.
The agency quoted Saudi Arabia Defence Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz as saying, “Pakistan will soon send its forces to the country for a joint military operation against Houthi rebels.
According to the Arab media, following the meeting of Pakistan high-level delegation with Saudi authorities, it was decided that the Pak Army would launch a joint operation with the Saudi Army against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
YEMEN FM CALLS FOR COALITION
TO SEND GROUND TROOPS
Yemen’s foreign minister called Wednesday for the Saudi-led military coalition to send ground troops to tackle rebels in his country.
“Yes, I’m calling for this (ground forces) because I think at some stage air strikes will be ineffective,” Riyadh Yassin told AFP during an interview in the Saudi capital where he has taken refuge along with President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
His appeal coincided with warnings from aid groups about a brewing humanitarian crisis and civilian casualties in Yemen, where the coalition began air strikes a week ago.
Yassin said ground forces would cause “less civilian casualties” but added the main reason he proposes a land operation is to enable aid deliveries.
“I am suggesting to start as soon as possible,” he added.
“We don’t have a safe place from where they can operate,” he said of the aid groups.
On Tuesday the Saudi-led coalition’s spokesman, Brigadier General Ahmed Assiri, said that “so far there is no need for land intervention” in Yemen but the need might arise “at any time”.
A Western diplomatic source on Wednesday said that a land offensive would be “very, very complicated and difficult”, partly because it would have to pass mountainous terrain in the country’s north, with which the Houthi rebels are highly familiar.
The source ruled out a seaborne landing because the coalition lacks amphibious forces.
But the foreign minister said troops could come in from the south, around the port city of Aden, which would be relatively easy to secure and could become safe for humanitarian operations.
Aid agencies said on Tuesday they could not get assistance into Yemen.
The closure of the country’s international airports, and restrictions on seaports, are hampering delivery, Doctors Without Borders said.
Assiri said all kinds of assistance for Yemen’s needy are welcome but it has to go through “diplomatic channels”.
He said the movement of aid needs to be coordinated with the military “to make sure that we don’t have any mistakes or any misunderstandings concerning the movement in the ports or airports or through the Saudi border.
Since Friday at least 93 civilians have been killed and 364 wounded in the conflict, the UN human rights office said on Tuesday.
“I’m very, very concerned” about the civilian impact, Riyadh Yassin said.