Saudi Arabia has suspended most of its financial aid to Yemen because of the growing political power of Shiite Houthi fighters.
“The Saudis’ approach is that ‘we’ll step back and let Yemen see the consequences of their choice of the Houthis and eventually they’ll come to their senses’,” said a senior Yemeni government official.
According to The National, Yemen, which is battling an Al Qaeda insurgency, a southern secessionist movement, endemic corruption and poor governance, has often relied on Riyadh to finance everything from government salaries to welfare payments.
But soon after Houthi fighters took over the capital in September, Saudi Arabia promptly suspended much of that aid, concerned the rebels would use their military muscle to dominate domestic politics.
Despite the aid suspension, Saudi Arabia this week announced US$54 million (Dh198m) in food relief for 45,000 families. A western source said the Saudis were also still funding some development and infrastructure projects, but said had stopped making other essential payments.
The Yemeni official said the Saudis last paid $450m for social security payments, as well as $950m worth of fuel products in the summer, before the fall of Sanaa.
Riyadh then refused to pay $500m earmarked for military purposes, including the purchase of ammunition and spare parts for an ageing air fleet, the official said.
A western diplomatic source in Sanaa also confirmed Saudi aid had been suspended. “The Saudis see everything through the prism of Iran,” the source said.
In early November, “the Saudis have said this to us, that the money has stopped coming in”, said the source. The Saudis said that they could not be seen to be “putting money into Yemen while it may be used by the Houthis”.
Finance ministry officials in Riyadh did not respond to requests for comment.
A Saudi foreign ministry spokesman said all financial assistance was handled through the finance ministry and so he was unable to comment.