Ye­men ports to open ‘within 24 hours’: Saudi en­voy

Key aid route will stay shut un­til Riyadh clamps down on weapons smug­gling, says Al-Moual­limi


Riyadh’s am­bas­sador to the UN, Abdallah Al-Moual­limi, told re­porters that the gov­ern­men­theld ports in Aden, Mukala and Al-Mokha, as well as air­ports in Aden, Seiyun and So­co­tra, would be opened “within the next 24 hours.”

“We would like to con­firm that steps are be­ing taken by the coali­tion… to start the process of re­open­ing air­ports and sea ports in Ye­men to al­low for the safe trans­fer of hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tors and hu­man­i­tar­ian and com­mer­cial ship­ments,” said Al-Moual­limi.

Other ports, in­clud­ing Houthicon­trolled Hodei­dah — where some 80 per­cent of Ye­men’s food sup­plies tran­sit — will re­main shut un­til a UN ver­i­fi­ca­tion regime is re­viewed to en­sure no arms reach the Houthis, the am­bas­sador added.

He called on UN Sec­re­taryGen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res to send a del­e­ga­tion to Riyadh to “re­view cur­rent pro­ce­dures to en­hance and de­liver a more ro­bust ver­i­fi­ca­tion and in­spec­tion mech­a­nism aimed at fa­cil­i­tat­ing the flow of hu­man­i­tar­ian and com­mer­cial ship­ments while pre­vent­ing the smug­gling of weapons, am­mu­ni­tion, mis­sile parts and cash.”

The Saudi-led coali­tion closed all air, sea and land ac­cess to Ye­men last week fol­low­ing the in­ter­cep­tion of a mis­sile fired to­ward the Saudi cap­i­tal, say­ing it had to stem the flow of arms to Ye­men’s Houthi rebel group from Iran.

Saudi Ara­bia has ac­cused arch­foe Tehran of sup­ply­ing the bal­lis­tic mis­sile which was shot down near Riyadh air­port with­out caus­ing any ca­su­al­ties. Iran has de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tion. Al-Moual­limi pointed to the Iran-backed Hezbol­lah mili­tia.

“Hezbol­lah is ac­tive in Ye­men on the ground, and... they are ac­tive in sup­port­ing the Houthis in op­er­at­ing, pre­par­ing, re­assem­bling such mis­siles and launch­ing them — in­clud­ing the one that was launched into Saudi Ara­bia,” Al-Moual­limi said.

The UN and in­ter­na­tional aid groups have re­peat­edly cri­tiqued the coali­tion in the past for block­ing aid ac­cess, es­pe­cially to north­ern Ye­men, which is held by the Iran-aligned Houthis bat­tling the Saudi-led coali­tion.

On Mon­day, UN spokesman Stephane Du­jar­ric warned that two thirds of Ye­men’s pop­u­la­tion — more than 17 mil­lion peo­ple — rely on food hand­outs and said that un­less the block­ade is wholly lifted the “sit­u­a­tion will de­te­ri­o­rate fur­ther.”

The UN’s World Food Pro­gramme will run out of rice in 111 days, while wheat stocks will end in 97 days, he said. “Un­less the Red Sea ports in Hodei­dah and Salif are open im­me­di­ately, the UN will not be able to feed 7 mil­lion peo­ple ev­ery month,” Du­jar­ric added.

More than 10,000 peo­ple have been killed in the war, which pits the in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment, backed by Saudi Ara­bia and its al­lies, against the Houthis and forces loyal to for­mer Pres­i­dent Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh.

The Saudi-led coali­tion has been tar­get­ing the Houthis since they seized parts of Ye­men in 2015, in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal Sanaa, forc­ing Pres­i­dent Abed Rabbo Man­sour Hadi to flee and seek help from neigh­bor­ing Saudi Ara­bia.

NEW YORK: The Saudi-led mil­i­tary coali­tion fight­ing in Ye­men will re­open some of the coun­try’s ports and air­ports within hours, though a key aid route will stay shut un­til Riyadh clamps down on weapons smug­gling, a Saudi en­voy said on Mon­day af­ter­noon in New York.

Saudi Ara­bia’s UN Am­bas­sador Abdallah Al-Moual­limi

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