The diplomatic exodus from crisis-wracked Yemen expanded Friday with Saudi Arabia joining Western nations in closing embassy operations as rebel factions cement control in the capital and al-Qaeda fighters make gains elsewhere.
The decision by Saudi Arabia reflects a major strategic step back by Yemen’s powerful neighbor, which is deeply worried over the rise of Yemen’s Shiite insurgents and the possible implications for the wider region.
The Saudi diplomatic withdrawal underscores the concerns about instability since rebel advances last month effectively deposed Yemen’s U.S.-backed president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
It also could limit the reach of Saudi intelligence assistance to the United States. The downfall of Hadi’s government has dealt a potential blow to Washington’s ability to wage drone attacks against targets al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, known of al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the U.S. continues to coordinate national security efforts with officials in Yemen, despite the decision to relocate embassy staff and operations there. (AP)
A statement from the official Saudi Press Agency said the country has suspended all work at its embassy in Yemen and evacuated its staff “due to the deterioration of the security and political situation.”
Hours earlier, Italy and Germany became the latest Western nations to close embassies in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. Last week, the United States, Britain and France took similar steps.