China’s Foreign Ministry has expressed concern after Yemen’s armed Houthi movement and its political allies formed a new government, in what appeared a blow to U.N.-backed efforts to end 20 months of war in the country.
Diplomats had hoped the Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa, would hold off on putting together a cabinet of their loyalists and instead form a unity government with their Yemeni foes, whom they pushed into Saudi exile.
The Houthis, who control territory with more than half of Yemen’s population, previously said forming a government with their allies did not mean abandoning the U.N.-sponsored peace process.
The flight of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the internationally recognized president, triggered military intervention by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia that has carried out thousands of air strikes on the Houthis but failed to dislodge them from Sanaa.
In a statement late on Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry said it supported Yemen’s legal government.
“We do not approve of any side in Yemen taking any unilateral actions that complicate the situation, and believe this is not beneficial to a political resolution of the Yemen issue,” the ministry said in a short statement.
China hopes relevant parties in Yemen continue dialogue to resolve the differences and reach an equitable settlement all sides can accept on the basis of United Nations resolutions and Gulf Cooperation Council initiatives, it added.
China relies on the Middle East for oil but has tended to leave Middle Eastern diplomacy to the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – the United States, Britain, France and Russia.
However, China has been trying to get more involved, especially in Syria and has taken tentative steps over the Yemen crisis too.
In January, while Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Saudi Arabia, both countries affirmed their support for the unity, independence and sovereignty of Yemen and support for its internationally recognized government.
Riyadh sees the Houthis as a proxy for bitter regional rival Iran to expand its influence in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula nation. The Houthis deny this and say they are waging a revolution against a corrupt government and Gulf Arab powers beholden to the West.
China also has close ties with Iran.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Richard Pullin)