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Arab Coalition slams Iran’s ‘defamatory’ claim over Irlu’s evacuation from Yemen

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Arab Coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Turki al-Maliki has slammed the “defamatory” claims made by Iran’s foreign minister that the coalition delayed air travel for Iran’s ambassador to Yemen’s Houthis when he needed urgent medical treatment after contracting COVID-19.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told Iranian state television on Tuesday that Iran’s efforts to secure a flight to Tehran for Hassan Irlu, Iran’s ambassador in the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa, were delayed by Saudi officials and “decision-makers.”

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Irlu died in Tehran earlier Tuesday morning after being eventually flown out, the semi-official Mehr news reported, adding that his condition became “unfavorable” because of “the late cooperation of some countries.”

Brig. Gen. al-Maliki said in a statement published by state press agency SPA that: “The Joint Forces Command of the Coalition has followed the defamatory statements of Hossein Amirabdollahian, Iran’s Foreign Minister, which were circulated by some media outlets on the Coalition’s Humanitarian stance in regards to evacuating Hassan Irlu, one of the IRGC officers, from Yemen.”

“The Joint Forces Command of the Coalition, under the directives of the leadership in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, had commenced the facilitation of evacuating the aforementioned person for humanitarian considerations, and in recognition of the diplomatic mediation by the brotherly Sultanate of Oman and the Republic of Iraq in less than 48 hours of reporting his health condition.”

“These defamatory statements against the Kingdom contradict humanitarian values and principles, and do not value the Coalition’s noble and humane stance in evacuating the aforementioned person from (Sanaa) to (Basrah).”

The spokesman also said the statements made by the Iranian officials “are hardly surprising,” adding that they fall in line with the conduct of Iranian diplomacy that smuggled [Irlu] into Yemen, who then began supporting chaos and fighting in Yemen.”

Brig. Gen. al-Maliki said the Joint Forces Command of the Coalition has facilitated and provided all necessary transit permits, as well as logistical support to the Iraqi Air Force (C-130) medevac aircraft.
He pointed out this is the second instance of evacuating an Iranian national who was associated with combat operations, following the evacuation of one of the crew of the Iranian military vessel (Saviz) in the Red Sea by the Royal Saudi Air Force, who was transported to receive medical attention for a long period of time at a Saudi hospital due to his deteriorating health condition.

He was then medically evacuated to Muscat following mediation by the Sultanate of Oman in order to return him to Iran.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Coalition will continue on their path of implementing the well-established humanitarian values and principles, despite the uncivilized, inhumane behavior of Iran,” concluded Brig. Gen. al-Maliki.

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NATO chief says reaching out to Russia but ‘prepared for worst’

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NATO on Wednesday delivered its proposals to Russia for a diplomatic solution to tensions triggered by Moscow's military build-up near Ukraine, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, but remained “prepared for the worst”.

“We are now reaching out to Russia once again to try to pursue a path of dialogue and find a political solution,” he said, after the alliance sent Moscow a written response to its security demands.

“But of course while we are hoping for and working for a good solution, de-escalation, we are also prepared for the worst,” he said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko confirmed to the news agency Interfax that Moscow had received the response from NATO, which was handed to Russia's envoy in Brussels.

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Asked how long Russia could take to study the response, he said: “We'll read it. We'll study it. Our partners had taken nearly a month and a half to study our draft.”

Stoltenberg said US-led NATO was ready for a “real conversation” over Russian concerns — but rejected a key Moscow demand to close the door on Ukraine's hope of joining.

“We cannot and will not compromise on the principles on which the security of our alliances and security in Europe and North America rest,” he said.

The alliance's proposals were handed over the same time as the US delivered its own written response to the Kremlin.

Moscow blindsided the West by publishing two draft treaties for the US and NATO in December that would see Washington's influence rolled back in eastern Europe.

The demands were made as Moscow massed some 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, in a move the West warns could be the prelude to a large-scale invasion.

Stoltenberg laid out a raft of areas where he said NATO thought it could engage constructively with the Kremlin, including improving communications, increasing transparency around military exercises, and arms control.

NATO is hoping its offer is enough to convince Moscow to hold further talks with the alliance and de-escalate the tensions on the ground.

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Saudi Arabia, UAE, UK, US condemn Houthi attacks, reaffirm support to Gulf security

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Saudi Arabia, the UAE, UK, US, and Oman condemned the Houthi attacks which targeted civilian sites in the Kingdom and Emirati capital Abu Dhabi, and reaffirmed support to both Gulf countries’ national security, a joint statement issued by the Saudi foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

Senior representatives from the five countries met on Wednesday to discuss Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis’ attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE recently. The UN envoy to Yemen participated in the meeting.

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia intercepted missile attacks launched by the Houthis targeting civilian sites in the Gulf countries within the two weeks.

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“The Quint strongly condemned the Houthis’ repeated attacks against civilians within Yemen, including US local staff in Sana’a and their continued heinous terrorist attacks against Saudi Arabia and more recently the UAE. Such actions are obstructing peace efforts and exacerbating suffering,” the statement said.

It added: “The Quint expressed full support for Saudi Arabia and the UAE and their legitimate national security concerns and called for an immediate end to attacks by the Houthis. The Quint acknowledged the legitimate right of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to defend themselves against terrorist attacks as per international law and following international humanitarian law, including taking all feasible precautions to avoid civilian harm.”

The five countries also discussed the “illicit Iranian provision of missiles and advanced weaponry to the Houthis.”

Iran did not comment directly on the recent attacks by the Houthis, but it commented on what it described as “recent Yemen-linked developments” by saying military attacks were not the solution.

Iran has long supplied the Houthis with financial and military support. However, it is not yet clear if Iran sanctioned the attack, or if it was completely a Houthi singular decision.

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Turkey’s Erdogan says Russia would be unwise to invade Ukraine

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Russia would be unwise to attack Ukraine and in that case Turkey would do what is necessary as a NATO member, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.

In an interview with broadcaster NTV Erdogan said he had invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Turkey under a proposal to host both sides for diplomacy and a path to peace, adding that he expects a response from Moscow.

Erdogan also said there was a need for comprehensive dialogue that addresses some of Russia's security concerns and that also explains to Moscow that some of its demands are not plausible.

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‘I hope that Russia will not make an armed attack or occupy Ukraine. Such a step will not be a wise act for Russia or the region,’ he said. ‘There is a need for dialogue that will listen to Russia and eliminate their reasonable security concerns.’

Ankara has good ties with both Kyiv and Moscow, but opposes Russian policies in Syria and Libya, as well as its annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014. While forging cooperation with Russia on defence and energy, Ankara has also sold sophisticated drones to Ukraine, angering Moscow.

‘I repeat that we are ready to do whatever is necessary and I conveyed these messages to President Putin and President (Volodymyr) Zelenskiy,’ Erdogan said. ‘I think both countries are aware of the sincerity and good intent of Turkey,’

The crisis should be solved ‘avoiding the use of force,’ he added. ‘We hope the NATO initiative will be successful on this.’

Turkey first floated the mediation offer in November. Last week diplomatic sources said both Russia and Ukraine were open to Turkey playing a role in resolving the crisis.

Erdogan has said he would visit Zelenskiy in Ukraine in early February to discuss the crisis and would also meet or call Putin soon.

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