The Houthi-appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs Hisham Sharaf met yesterday with the charge d’affaires of the Russian Embassy, Andrei Chernfall, raising many questions as to why Russian diplomats are meeting with an unrecognised government in Sana’a.
During the meeting, Houthi-controlled Saba news agency reported that the two diplomats discussed the outcome of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s recent visit to Yemen. The unofficial foreign minister, Sharaf, thanked Russia for its role in the Yemen conflict and for its overall support for the de facto Houthi government.
Chernfall then stressed the need to lift the restrictions imposed on Sana’a International Airport in order to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Though the Kremlin’s official stance is in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which calls for the disarmament of the Houthis and the reinstatement of the government of Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi in Sana’a, there have been a number of instances in the past in which Russian diplomats have met with Houthi rebels and officials with ties to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Meeting Sharaf could inflame further sensitivities, as it implies Russian diplomats are leaning to support, or even legitimise, the Houthi and Saleh de facto government in Sana’a.
Yemen has been locked in a bitter battle between Iran-backed Houthi rebels allied with forces loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh and government forces led by President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, along with local tribes and resistance forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition.