UN Dismisses Saudi Conditions to Reopen Yemen Port

Yemen's Hudaydah port
Al Hudaydah port in Yemen in February 2017. Photo: Reuters

The United Nations on Tuesday dismissed a Saudi demand that tighter inspections be put in place at Yemen’s rebel-held Hudaydah port before a devastating blockade is lifted.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia’s U.N. envoy Abdallah al-Mouallimi told reporters that ports at Aden, Mukalla and Mocha will begin to be reopened, but Riyadh wants more security checks at Hudaydah.

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

“I don’t think discussions (on new inspections) should hamper the port remaining open”, he told reporters in a phone conference from Yemen. “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.”

Before the conflict began, some 70 percent of the food imported into Yemen came through Hudaydah. It remains a key point for aid coming into the north of the country, and has been periodically targeted since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen’s civil war more than two years ago.

Mr. McGoldrick said that a U.N. 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.

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

On Monday, the Norwegian Refugee Council told The Globe Post that fuel costs are up more than 120 percent in certain areas of Yemen, while 250 metric tonnes of World Health Organisation medical aid has been denied entry since Saudi Arabia imposed the blockade nine days ago.

Karl Schembri, the NRC Middle East regional media advisor said 580 aid workers have been unable to travel to or from Yemen, and 23 United Nations flights and three sea trips have been denied.

A spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen told The Globe Post that the situation was getting worse every day. The ICRC has publicly called for the Saudi-led coalition to keep open the humanitarian supply lines to Yemen.

Earlier on Tuesday, the civil aviation authority run by the Houthis said a Saudi air strike destroyed the navigation station at Sana’a international airport, where the last aid flights had been able to land.

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.

“Nothing is getting to Sana’a airport,” the ICRC spokesperson said.

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 on behalf of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. According to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, more than 13,000 civilians have been killed since the coalition began its air campaign, an estimated 60 percent from the bombardment.


With reporting from AFP.