Oman denies Iranian weapons smuggled to Houthis through country
In an interview with Saudi Daily Okaz on Thursday, Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi said “there is no truth to it. Weapons did not cross over our borders… we are willing to clarify this for our brothers in Saudi Arabia.”
In September Yemeni authorities loyal to President AbdRabbuh Mansour Hadi found weapons bound for Iran-backed Houthis on trucks with Omani licence plates en route to the Houthi-held capital of Sanaa from Hadramout province. However, no evidence of any link to Omani authorities were found. Iran officially denies that it is arming the Houthis.
Speaking on Thursday Bin Alawi instead told Okaz that if weapons were being smuggled into Yemen then it was more likely occurring along Yemen’s “spacious” coast, pointing out that smugglers in Wadi Abida, located in the eastern Yemeni province of Maarib, had become renowned for their trade.
Oman has distanced itself from the Saudi-led coalition which began launching airstrikes in Yemen against Houthi targets in support of the Hadi government in March 2015.
Instead the Sultanate has adopted a mediatory role between the two disputing parties.
However, the Hadi government and its backers in Riyadh hold that Oman has failed to remain impartial, has harboured Yemeni rebels and become an important facilitator of communication with Iran.
They remain suspicious that Muscat has overlooked support for the Houthi cause in Dhofar, an Omani province bordering Yemen, and have speculated that Iranian weapons may have been stored at the Salalah airport in Dhofar, and on a number of small islands off the coast of the province.
Oman has also offered humanitarian and medical support to treat those wounded in Yemen and treated them in hospitals in the country following a maritime blockade imposed by the Arab coalition.
Following a deadly airstrike on a funeral attended by Houthi officials in Sanaa on Saturday – that the Saudi-led coalition is widely suspected of committing – thousands took to the streets in the Yemeni capital in anti-Saudi demonstrations. Ali Abdullah Saleh has since called for renewed attacks on Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, earlier this week the US navy reported that two of its vessels had been targeted by rockets fired from Houthi-controlled territory prompting a retaliatory attack that destroyed three Houthi-controlled radio sites in Yemen on Thursday.
Iran has since sent two warships to the Gulf of Aden raising concerns of an escalation of the conflict.