Sunday

19th Feb 2017

Two hundred EU citizens still in Yemen

  • Anti-Saleh cartoon - EU capitals do not expect him to go back to Yemen (Photo: Khalid Albaih)

About 200 EU nationals are still in Yemen but most of them do not want to leave despite the threat of civil war after President Ali Abdullah Saleh fled to Saudi Arabia.

The majority of the group are German citizens, followed by British and French people, according to reports sent in to Brussels by EU foreign ministries. Poland and Romania also have sizeable numbers still in the country.

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Many of the stay-behinds are EU passport-holding women married to Yemeni men, and their children. Commercial flights are still operating out of Sanaa airport but foreign nationals who have stuck it out so far are unlikely to leave now, EU officials predict.

Most of the major EU embassies in Sanaa have shut up shop, reducing the flow of information about fast-changing events.

The Dutch, German and Italian embassies have closed. The British mission has kept going with "core staff" only and Catherine Ashton's EU outpost has also stayed open with "essential staff." The French embassy is working normally, with three French citizens - believed kidnapped - missing in the country since late May.

The 69-year-old President Saleh was flown to Riyadh at the weekend for surgery on shrapnel wounds and burns.

Yemeni officials on Monday said he would be back in a few days. But EU capitals are sceptical he will return. "I shouldn't think so because he apparently took so many close members of his family with him," one EU diplomat said.

Opposition leaders have told international media they accept the rule of Saleh's deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, for the time being. But reports indicate at least three more people died during skirmishes between pro- and anti-Saleh forces on Monday.

Ashton in an official statement on Monday afternoon said: "Violence must stop. We call on all the parties to respect and hold the ceasefire."

She noted the EU still supports a Saudi Arabia-sponsored plan for Saleh to step down in return for legal immunity and life in exile: "We remain committed to supporting a political transition in Yemen and call on all the parties to create the necessary conditions for this to happen quickly."

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