Embassy staffs leave as Yemen rebels take power

Reuters reports: The US, Britain and France have closed their embassies in Yemen over security concerns in the Arab world’s poorest country, where Shia rebels finalised their power-grab last week.

Rebels seized more than 30 US embassy vehicles in the capital, Sana’a, after the ambassador and diplomats left the country.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of the central city of Taiz on Wednesday and hundreds more Sana’a in the largest protests yet against the Houthi movement, which overran Sana’a in September and formally took power last week.

The US stopped work at its embassy and withdrew its diplomatic staff on Tuesday.

“Recent unilateral actions disrupted the political transition process in Yemen, creating the risk that renewed violence would threaten Yemenis and the diplomatic community in Sanaa,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

France and Britain followed suit on Wednesday, while employees of the German embassy said its mission was also getting rid of sensitive documents and would soon close. [Continue reading…]

Meanwhile, business as usual at the Chinese embassy, Xinhua reports.

PRI reports: On February 6, the Houthis formalized their accession to power with a televised statement by their leader.

“Since the Houthis made this unilateral statement,” Craig observes, “those foreign embassies had little other way to show their dissatisfaction with the Houthis other than packing up and leaving, really, at this point.” Efforts to complete a transition to democracy that began in 2011, led by the United Nations Envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, had failed to bring Yemen’s disparate political factions together to plot a future for the nation. When the Houthis short-circuited the transitional process by seizing power, Craig says, western diplomats had little recourse. “They didn’t have a Plan B, there wasn’t ‘What shall we do if it doesn’t work out?’ – ‘What are our other options if this fails?’ and so when it did collapse they were left empty-handed really.”

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