China has said it helped 10 countries evacuate 225 of their citizens from Yemen, where Iran-allied rebels have seized the two main cities, the first time Beijing has assisted in the evacuation of foreign nationals during an international crisis.
A Chinese missile frigate carried the foreign nationals from the port of Aden in Yemen’s south, bound for Djibouti, on Thursday afternoon, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on its Web site late on Thursday.
Violence has been spreading across Yemen since last year, when Shiite Houthi fighters seized the capital, Sana’a, and effectively removed Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
A Saudi Arabia-led coalition has hit the rebels with air strikes over the past week.
The ministry said the countries — Pakistan, Ethiopia, Singapore, Italy, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Britain, Canada and Yemen — requested China’s help with the evacuation.
China had earlier evacuated 571 of its own nationals, along with eight foreigners who worked for Chinese companies.
Once-reclusive China has become increasingly active in disaster relief and humanitarian aid abroad, as its global economic interests widen.
“China has been keen to learn from the experience of other countries on how to evacuate people, especially after Libya,” one senior Western diplomat in Beijing said.
“It’s good to see China taking more of an interest in this,” the diplomat added.
A low-key diplomatic player in the Middle East despite its reliance on oil from the region, China has voiced concern at the surge in violence in Yemen and called for a political solution.
Beijing drew international praise last year when it sent elite troops to help Ebola-hit Liberia by building a treatment center and helping transport medical supplies.
China also sent a state-of-the-art hospital ship to the Philippines in 2013 after one of the world’s biggest typhoons killed thousands.
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