Iran has called on all sides of the conflict in northern Yemen, which has left thousand dead, to exercise self-restraint for the benefit of the world of Islam.
“The conflict is what worries the Arab and Muslim world… So, we advise all involved parties to exercise self-restraint. We invite them to try to resolve the issue through dialogue,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters on Tuesday.
“All that this fighting does is harm the interests of the world of Islam. Some powers, however, will benefit from such conflicts in our region, as they are hostile towards the Muslim world,” Ramin Mehmanparast said at the press briefing.
Mehmanparast said those parties that are benefiting from the conflict in Yemen are trying to create division between Muslims and thereby divert attention away from major issues.
He added that the Iranian people were following the developments in Yemen “with high sensitivity” as they do regarding other issues of the Muslim world.
The spokesman said that Tehran hopes the conflict ends as soon as possible through peaceful means such as negotiation.
The conflict in northern Yemen first began in 2004 between Sana’a and Houthi fighters, but relative peace had returned to region until August 11, when the Yemeni army began a major offensive, dubbed Operation Scorched Earth, against the province of Sa’adah.
The government claims that the fighters, who are named after their leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi, seek to restore the Shia Zaidi imamate system, which was overthrown in a 1962 coup.
The Houthis, however, say they are defending their people against unfair government policies which marginalize Shias under pressure from Saudi-backed Wahhabi extremists.
Recently, the Saudi Arabian government has added to the problem by launching its own offensive against northern Yemen.
While Riyadh insists that it is targeting Houthi positions on ‘Saudi territory’, the fighters say Saudi Arabia is bombing Yemeni villages with chemical weapons and causing the unnecessary death of civilians.
As Sana’a does not allow independent media into the conflict zone, there are no clear estimates available as to how many people have been killed in the Shia province of Sa’adah since the beginning of the unrest in 2004 or in the recent violence.
According to UN estimates, however, since 2004 up to 175,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Sa’adah to take refuge in overcrowded camps set up by the international body.
In the initial stage of the recent conflict, Arab officials on several occasions accused the fighters of having ties with Iran.
The Houthis also charged that the Sana’a government was being influenced, financed and armed by Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia, which is known for suppressing its own Shia minority.
Although Saudi Arabia’s offensive later proved right the Houthi claims which were originally rejected by Riyadh, the accusations against Iran were never substantiated.
At one point, even the Yemeni President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, said that Sana’s did not accuse the Iranian government of interfering in the conflict.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, however, made quite contrary comments in Washington earlier this week, accusing Tehran of meddling in Arab affairs.
During his weekly press conference, Mehmanparat said the “not so interesting” comments made by Mubarak played into the hands of the enemies of the world of Islam.
He advised the Egyptian leader to try to promote “cooperation among Muslim states” instead of making such destructive comments.