Houthi delegation on 'official' visit to Iran

Houthi delegation on 'official' visit to Iran
As a Houthi delegation landed in Iran to represent Yemen in an official capacity, the first direct Sanaa flight from Tehran touched down to deliver medical aid to the battle-ravaged country.
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The Iranian plane dropped off 12 tons of medical aid in Sanaa [Anadolu]

Leading members of Yemen's Houthi movement are in Iran for a four-day "official" visit, which started on Sunday.

As they flew to the Iranian capital, the first direct flight in the reverse direction, from Tehran to Sanaa, touched down, packed with aid from the Iranian Red Cross.

It came a day after an aviation agreement was signed between the Houthis, a Zaydi-Shia tribal group which has taken over several state institutions in Yemen, and Tehran officials.

On the flight to Tehran was a delegation headed by Saleh al-Samad, head of the Houthis' political council. A team of Houthi economists will also hold talks with Iranian officials about increased political and economic cooperation between the two countries.

"The visit is an implementation of what was announced in a speech by [Houthi leader] Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, in which he talked about the possibility of opening up new horizons through relations with countries that respect the Yemeni people's choice and the sovereignty of their territory," said Samad.

"Relations between Yemen and Iran are fraternal and positive, but the fact that previous governments threw themselves into the lap of the United States had a negative impact on relations with Iran."

Fars News, an Iranian media agency, desribed the delgation as "representatives of the Yemeni government".

     Fars News described the delegation as 'representatives of the Yemeni government'.

Mahan Air's first flight to the Yemeni capital, meanwhile, took off as part of an agreement that allows the Iranian airline to run 14 flights a week to Sanaa.

According to official sources, the plane carried 12 tons of medical supplies for the Yemeni Red Cross.

But many in Yemen do not recognise the Houthis as the legitimate rulers of the country, after they seized the capital in September and forced the president from office months later.

President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has since escaped Sanaa, where he was being held under house arrest, to the city of Aden, where he is attempting to re-establish his authority.

"The agreement signed between the Yemeni civil aviation authority and its Iranian counterpart is not binding on Yemen, because it was signed by persons who lack any legal or constitutional capacity," said an unnamed source close to Yemen's government.

He called on Tehran to respect Yemen's sovereignty and constitutional legitimacy, not to interfere in internal affairs, and not to take advantage of instability in the country.

"The arrival of the first Iranian plane to Sanaa is a violation of Yemen's sovereignty," he said.

President Hadi also considers the agreement to illegal, sources suggest.

"Everyone is aware of the repercussions that followed the coup the Houthi groups staged against constitutional legitimacy and the outcome of dialogue," said Hadi.

"[Moving to Aden] was not meant to re-divide Yemen as come claim, but rather to preserve Yemen's security, stability, and unity."

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.