MOSCOW, March 31. /TASS/. A ground operation led by Saudi Arabia may lead to a prolonged conflict in Yemen, Russian experts said on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said earlier today that the military operation in Yemen will continue "until full stabilization" in the country. "We will continue protecting the legitimate government until we reach our aim - returning Yemen to stability, security and unity," he said, noting that a ground operation is also possible.
"The ground operation will not be effective, it will only lead to a prolonged conflict," senior research fellow at the department of political science at the Higher School of Economics Leonid Isaev said. "One can also expect negative consequences for those countries that are planning it," the expert added.
"Former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi is to blame for what is going on in the country now," Isaev said. "He delivered a blow at himself by attempting to hold the comprehensive national dialogue out of Yemen’s borders. By asking for military assistance from Riyadh, he lost all support," he added.
Experts also discussed the possibility of introducing economic sanctions against Yemen. "The people in Yemen are so poor that sanctions will be counter-productive and may anger them," head of the Center for Eastern Research at the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy Oleg Peresypkin said.
The situation in Yemen should not deteriorate into a Sunni-Shia standoff, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday. "We are deeply concerned about what is happening in Yemen. The situation should not get out of control," Lavrov said. "Our approach is that it is necessary to stop any use of force," he said.
"The Ansar Allah group should stop military activities in the south of Yemen. The coalition should stop delivering air strikes at the territory of Yemen. Both sides - the side of President [Abd Rabbuh Mansur] Hadi who fled the country, and the side of so-called Houthis - should restart negotiations. They had contacts before the conflict moved into the hot phase," Lavrov said. "There is understanding that the talks should be [held] on neutral territory," the foreign minister added.
"If we are talking about a regional, geopolitical situation - it cannot be allowed for this to deteriorate into a Sunni-Shia standoff," Lavrov stressed. "We have been warning about the serious threat of such a split inside Islam from the very start of the Arab Spring. We were not heard very well, or maybe we were heard, but they just chose not to take this into consideration. We cannot allow for this situation to turn into an attempt to unleash an open conflict between the Arabs and Iran," the foreign minister said.
"Those who are now consciously facilitating the deterioration - acute, forceful deterioration - in disagreements between Sunnis and Shias, take upon themselves a colossal responsibility," he added.
Since August 2014, Yemen has been hit by a severe political and security crisis. In late January, the armed groups of Ansar Allah (Houthi rebels) forced the president and the government to announce resignation.
The rebels later took control of the country’s capital and several northern provinces. They also announced the adoption of the so-called constitutional declaration.
Overnight to March 26, Saudi Arabia launched a military operation in the neighboring country and delivered air strikes at several Houthi positions.
Pro-government forces regained control of the Aden airport last week, while Yemeni President Abd Rabbah Mansur Hadi fled the country to Saudi Arabia.