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Moscow's shifting strategy in Yemen

With the recent appointment of Ahmed Salem al-Wahishi as Yemen's ambassador to Russia, Moscow finds itself in a strong position to lead a political solution to the Yemen conflict.
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 02:  Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Yemen's President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi during a meeting on April 2, 2013 in Moscow, Russia. Yemen's President is in Russia for his first state visit to the country since his election in 2012. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)

On July 13, Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi appointed Yemen’s first ambassador to Russia since former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s fall from power in 2011. After the appointment was announced, Yemen’s official Saba news agency reported that Hadi had urged his new ambassador to Russia, Ahmed Salem al-Wahishi, to strengthen Yemen’s bilateral relationship with Russia on numerous levels.

Russia’s decision to accept Hadi’s pick for ambassador to Moscow contrasts markedly with its disapproval of Hadi’s ambassadorial appointments in late 2016. As Russia has deepened its relationships with Hadi’s pro-Saudi government and pro-Iran factions in Yemen in recent months, Wahishi’s appointment is a compelling indicator of the transformation of Moscow’s Yemen strategy from passive rhetorical criticism of the ongoing conflict to the active pursuit of a cease-fire through diplomatic means. This policy shift was codified by a February 2017 Russian Foreign Ministry statement, which called for the re-establishment of dialogue between warring parties and an end to the two-year conflict in Yemen.

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