Saudi forces have landed on the island of Socotra for training exercises with the Yemeni troops according to Saudi military forces. Locals on the island protested last week the arrival of troops from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as their troops arrived without the invitation of the Yemeni government and since no Houthi rebels are in Socotra.

Turki al-Malki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said on Sunday the Saudi soldiers are on a training and support mission with Yemeni forces.

Saudi, UAE, and Yemeni forces will conduct joint training exercises in coordination with the Yemeni government.

Protests broke out in Socotra last week as locals rejected the deployment of forces belonging to the UAE because there are no rebels on the island.

Demonstrators marched through the streets of Socotra’s capital, Hadibu, rejecting what they described as UAE intervention in the internal affairs of the province without seeking government approval.

“These forces are present in Socotra and al-Mahra in numbers that can’t be understood,” said Abdullah bin Issa al-Aafra of the Al-Mahra and Socotra People’s General Council.

The Emirati soldiers arrived on Thursday, forcing out Yemeni troops and taking over strategic locations, including the airport and the seaport.

Socotra, in the Indian Ocean, is located about 350km from the southern coast of Yemen.

Located just off the coast of Somalia with access to major shipping routes, Socotra is also a World Heritage Site known for its unique and pristine environment.

The UAE and the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi are allies in a war against the Houthi rebels.

Relations between the two have soured, however, because of the UAE’s expanding influence in southern Yemen, home to a resurgent separatist movement.

The UAE’s attempt to exert control over Socotra is seen by many as the latest move by the Gulf state to spread its influence well beyond its borders.

The UAE is building its influence in the area and is attempting to spread across the region, after taking Socotra, they are also building bases across the gulf in Eritrea in Assab, in Somaliland and also in Somalia in Bosaso without the blessing of the central government.

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