France 'preparing to secure Yemeni gas facility' for exports: report
France could be gearing up to help protect a gas facility in Yemen to allow for exports in a bid to cut Europe's reliance on Russia, according to an ex-Yemeni foreign minister.
Abubaker Alqirbi tweeted in Arabic on Tuesday that "information is coming in" about "preparations being made to export gas from the Balhaf facility" and that this "could be the reason for events in Shabwa" and moves made by France.
Yemeni government forces recently clashed with UAE-backed southern separatist forces in gas-rich Shabwa province, where Balhaf is located, last week, leading to dozens of civilian and combatant casualties.
Drones and artillery, believed to belong to the UAE, have fired on government positions located on an important road between Ataq and a city in the neighbouring province of Hadramaut, according to pan-Arab news website Arabi 21.
France is negotiating with countries in the region and factions participating in Yemen's war, according to the information cited by Alqirbi.
The aim is to see gas exports restart at Balhaf "in light of increased international gas prices and to reduce Russian pressure on Europe".
This has been a major concern since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Paris could "provide protection for the facility through the French Foreign Legion" – part of the country's military in which foreign citizens serve.
Three of the deadliest ongoing wars in the Middle East might have seen a downscale in violence lately, but the impact of conflict has been devastating.— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) August 16, 2022
We take a look at how this is played out in three countries: Libya, Syria and Yemen 👇 pic.twitter.com/L3vtsAyyTB
The key Balhaf gas facility has been turned into a base by UAE troops, who have not allowed exports of the fossil fuel, Arabi 21 said.
Mohammed Saleh bin Adyo, the former governor of Shabwa governor, urged the soldiers leave the site on more than one occasion while he was in office.
The UAE, while officially part of the Saudi-led coalition, has pursued its own agenda in Yemen.
It now wants to bring more territory under the control of militias it backs, analysts believe.
The UAE supports the Southern Transitional Council and other separatist groups which seek to establish an independent state in Yemen's south.