As Saudi Arabia-led coalition continues airstrikes in Yemen, Russia has urged the concerned parties to get back to the negotiation table in a neutral territory. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that the Yemen conflict should not escalate into a wider Sunni-Shia war, reports Russian news agency TASS. Lavrov said any use of force in Yemen should be stopped immediately to avoid escalation.
Russia has warned of Shia-Sunni split since the Arab Spring
If not stopped, the conflict may “deteriorate into a Sunni-Shia standoff.” Lavrov said Russia had been warning of such a split in Islam from the very beginning of the Arab Spring. But countries chose not to take it into consideration. Moscow said we cannot allow this situation to turn into an open conflict between Iran and the Arabs.
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Notably, Russia had warned in February to help Shiite Iran attack Sunni Saudi Arabia if United States supplied lethal weapons to Ukraine. Anyway, the Russian Foreign Minister said Tuesday that Moscow was “deeply concerned with the developments in Yemen.” He said the Arab coalition should stop airstrikes in Yemen and the Ansar Allah group should stop military activities in southern Yemen.
Yemen a battleground for regional supremacy
Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of backing the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The escalation of Yemen war prompted the Arab League to establish a permanent multinational force, consisting of mostly Sunni countries, to take joint action against extremism. But few in the Middle-East doubt that it was aimed at containing the influence of Iran.
Shiite Iran has been expanding its influence in the region, largely at the expense of Sunni Saudi Arabia. Antoine Basbous, the chief of Paris-based Observatory of Arab Countries, recently said that the Saudi-led airstrike was a “last-minute move to prevent Yemen from becoming an Iranian colony.” Iranian-backed militias have captured large swaths of Iraq. Iran is also supporting the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia, which proclaims to be the guardian of Sunni interest in the region, cannot afford to see another Shiite-dominate state in the Middle-East.