The Chinese government has denied involvement in the recent agreement brokered by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia with China’s Anton Oil Exploration Company. The agreement coincides with intense regional and international efforts to revive the peace process and reach promising peace formulas toward ending the conflict and resolving the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The Charge d’Affaires at the Chinese Embassy in Yemen made the remarks during a telephone conversation with Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed Bin Mubarak, according to the Yemeni News Agency Saba. The Chinese diplomat said that the Antoun Company is a private company and does not represent the Chinese government, and that the memorandum of understanding that the Houthi militias claimed to have signed with it is being verified.
“The Chinese government has nothing to do with the rumor about the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Houthi militias and the Antoine Oil Company,” he said, according to Yemen’s News Yemen.
On Saturday, Houthi militias claimed they had signed a memorandum of understanding with a Chinese firm to invest in oil exploration and threatened to prevent the legitimate government from resuming oil exports from ports in liberated governorates.
The agreement was signed by Ahmed Daris, oil minister in the Houthi government, Anton Company and a representative of the Chinese government, according to the group’s news agency, Saba.
The Houthi minister claimed that the signing of the memorandum followed negotiations and coordination with several foreign and international companies convinced of investment and involvement in oil exploration in Yemen. He spoke of “putting the final touches on signing the memoranda of understanding with them.”
The Houthi minister renewed his group’s threats to foreign companies to deal or conclude any contracts with the legitimate government in Aden, which has been suffering from a severe financial crisis as a result of the seven-month oil shutdown; Houthi militia attacks on export terminals in liberated governorates.
The Houthi announcement comes one week after Saeed al-Shamasi, the oil minister of the Yemeni government, met with the director general of the Chinese company Sinopec in the Middle East to discuss resuming operations of his company in Yemen’s oil and gas sector.
According to the Ministry of Oil’s official report, the Chinese company is one of a number of companies operating in Yemen. It has invested in the 71st sector in Hadramaut and in the S2-Aqlah sector in Shabwah.
The meeting comes amid continued attempts by the government for years to persuade foreign oil and gas companies to return to Yemen, after the war forced most foreign oil companies to leave the country.
Although some observers saw the move as a new Houthi maneuver aimed at improving their negotiating terms and presenting themselves as a legitimate authority that deals with the international community and is independent of the country’s own capabilities, others did not rule out the success of their efforts in what they saw as the international community’s identification with the Houthi project in the region for political reasons.