United Nations dismisses Saudi conditions to reopen Yemen port

Frederick Owens
November 15, 2017

The top United Nations aid official in Yemen called on the Saudi-led coalition on Tuesday to open all Yemen's sea ports urgently, saying it risked damaging the fight against cholera and hunger.

It's been about a week since Saudi Arabia locked down Yemen's land borders, air space, and seaports, because, it said, it wants to stop the flow of Iranian weapons to the Houthi rebels that the US -backed, Saudi-led coalition has been bombing for two years.

The Saudi-led coalition, which is fighting Houthi rebels and is trying to restore the government of Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, has requested UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to send experts to Riyadh to develop a more robust verification and inspection mechanism to prevent the smuggling of weapons and missile parts into Yemen.

Despite the Saudi announcement, a top leader of Yemen's Shiite rebels on Monday vowed retaliation against the oil-rich kingdom over its blockade of his war-torn country.

Saudi Arabia announced it shut down all ports after a November 4 ballistic missile attack on Riyadh near its worldwide airport by the Shiite rebels known as Houthis.

Iran denies arming the Houthis and blames the conflict in Yemen on Riyadh. "The right choice for the Saudi regime and its allies is to stop the war, end the blockade and engage in direct dialogue", Samad said at the rally.

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Jamie McGoldrick said the north of the country had 20 days' stocks of diesel, which were crucial for pumping water and fighting a huge cholera outbreak, and 10 days' stocks of gasoline, with no prospect of resupply soon. "Without Sanaa airport and Hodeidah and Salif seaports fully functioning and able to receive cargo, the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen will continue", Dujarric told reporters in NY.

Saudi Arabia and the US have accused Iran of supplying the ballistic missile used in that attack.

He said that a United Nations 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.

McGoldrick says access to such ports is "helpful" but that the key need is access to the rebel-held Red Sea ports of Salif and Hodeida, closer to large population centers.

A man walks through rubble in the Yemeni city of Sa'ada following airstrikes in 2015.

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