Aid port yet to open

Arab Times - - FRONT PAGE -

GENEVA, Nov 14, (AFP): The United Na­tions on Tues­day dis­missed a Saudi de­mand that tighter in­spec­tions be put in place at Ye­men’s rebel-held Hodeida port be­fore a dev­as­tat­ing block­ade is lifted.

The Saudi-led coali­tion fight­ing rebels in Ye­men shut down the coun­try’s land, sea and air bor­ders a week ago in re­sponse to a mis­sile at­tack by the Iran­backed Houthis that was in­ter­cepted near Riyadh.

The UN has warned that an al­ready cat­a­strophic hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in Ye­men was wors­en­ing each day that aid ship­ments re­mained blocked.

Saudi Ara­bia’s Am­bas­sador to the UN Ab­dal­lah alMoual­limi told re­porters in New York on Mon­day that ports in gov­ern­ment-con­trolled ar­eas such as Aden, Mukalla and Mocha will be re­opened, but de­manded more rig­or­ous checks at the Red Sea port of Hodeida.

The UN’s aid co­or­di­na­tor in Ye­men, Jamie McGoldrick, said there was no time to wait for a new in­spec­tion sys­tem to be set up.

“The hu­man­i­tar­ian im­pact of what is hap­pen­ing here right now is unimag­in­able,” he told re­porters in Geneva in a phone con­fer­ence.

“I don’t think dis­cus­sions (on new in­spec­tions) should ham­per the port re­main­ing open”, he added.

“The hu­man­i­tar­ian as­pect of this is some­thing we need to ad­dress im­me­di­ately be­cause we can’t have those ports closed or those air­ports closed while we wait for dis­cus­sions on new (in­spec­tion) man­dates to go ahead.”

McGoldrick un­der­scored that UN aid was the main life­line for most of Ye­men’s pop­u­la­tion, seven mil­lion of whom are at risk of famine.

He said that a UN ver­i­fi­ca­tion and in­spec­tion mech­a­nism al­ready in place could work with the Saudi-led coali­tion on im­ple­ment­ing new pro­ce­dures but that keep­ing ports closed in the in­terim was not vi­able.

Stocks of diesel and petrol are run­ning out in parts of Ye­men be­cause of the block­ade, while the prices of ba­sic goods have sky­rock­eted.

The block­ade “is com­pli­cat­ing what is al­ready a cat­a­strophic sit­u­a­tion”, McGoldrick said.

Saudi Ara­bia and its al­lies in­ter­vened in Ye­men in March 2015 to push back the Iran-backed Houthi rebels who con­trol the cap­i­tal Sanaa, and re­store the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Abed Rabbo Man­sour Hadi to power.

Rebel au­thor­i­ties in Ye­men said on Tues­day that a Saudi-led air strike had de­stroyed a nav­i­ga­tion sta­tion at Sanaa in­ter­na­tional air­port, which is crit­i­cal to re­ceiv­ing al­ready lim­ited aid ship­ments.

The strike “led to the to­tal de­struc­tion of the VOR/DME ra­dio nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem, tak­ing it off­line and thus halt­ing the only flights at Sanaa air­port — those of the United Na­tions and other in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions de­liv­er­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance,” the rebel-run Gen­eral Au­thor­ity for Civil Avi­a­tion said in a state­ment.

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