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Restoring Yemeni access, Saudis say

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Photographs by AP/BEBETO MATTHEWS

Abdallah Al-Mouallimi (left), a Saudi Arabian ambassador, and Yemeni envoy Khaled Hussein Al-Yamani speak Monday at U.N. headquarters.

SANAA, Yemen -- Saudi Arabia announced Monday that the Saudi-led coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen will begin reopening airports and seaports in the Arab world's poorest country, days after closing them over a rebel ballistic missile attack on Riyadh.

The Saudi U.N. ambassador denied that there has been an embargo, saying "a temporary procedure" was taken for a few days to ensure the safety and security of Yemenis and Saudis, and that supplies were available.

There is no embargo," Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said. "There are many sources of supply to Yemen, even during the past week or so."

The announcement from the Saudi mission at the United Nations came after the coalition fighting Yemen's rebels, known as Houthis, faced widespread international criticism over the closure, with the U.N. and over 20 aid groups saying it could bring millions of already suffering people closer to "starvation and death."

"The first step in this process will be taken within 24 hours and involves reopening all the ports in areas controlled by" Yemen's internationally recognized government, which the coalition backs, read the mission's statement.

Those ports are in Yemeni cities of Aden, Mocha and Mukalla. For ports in rebel-held or disputed territories, such as the city of Hodeida, the mission said it has asked the U.N. to send a team of experts to discuss ways to make sure weapons can't be smuggled in.

The Saudi-led coalition hopes that will prevent "the smuggling of weapons, ammunitions, missile parts and cash that are regularly being supplied by Iran and Iranian accomplices to the Houthi rebels," the statement said.

Al-Mouallimi also accused the Houthis of diverting humanitarian aid "to fulfill their own requirements" and "to trade in the black market and achieve exorbitant profits at the expense of the Yemeni people."

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. The war has killed over 10,000 civilians, displaced 3 million people and left much of the country's infrastructure in ruins.

Information for this article was contributed by Maggie Michael and Jon Gambrell of The Associated Press.

A Section on 11/14/2017

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