UN scrambles to avert coalition attack on Yemen port

Yemenis drop off boxes of humanitarian aid provided by the Emirati Red Crescent in the coastal town of Mujailis, south of the city of Hodeida, on June 6, 2018

The UN Security Council met behind closed doors Monday to try to avert an attack by the Saudi-led coalition on a key port in Yemen that provides a lifeline for humanitarian aid.

Britain requested the urgent talks after telling aid agencies in the area of the rebel-held port of Hodeida that an attack was imminent by forces of the United Arab Emirates.

The United Nations has warned that up to 250,000 people were at risk if the coalition moves ahead with an all-out offensive to take the port, which is a major entry point for commercial supplies and aid.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said there were “intense negotiations” by his UN envoy Martin Griffiths on the fate of the port.

“I hope that there will be a way to avoid the military confrontation in Hodeida,” Guterres told reporters.

During the closed session, Griffiths was to brief council members by video-conference from Amman along with UN aid chief Mark Lowcock.

“We recognize the UAE’s security concerns and these need to be addressed,” British Ambassador Karen Pierce told reporters ahead of the meeting. “But we are also worried about the humanitarian situation.”

The coalition maintains that the Red Sea port is used by Yemen’s Huthi rebels to smuggle weapons.

Griffiths told the council in April that he was working on a peace plan for Yemen but that any military action risked derailing that effort.

“It’s very important for us that the council comes together and gives a common signal and gives a very clear political message to the actors involved,” said Dutch Ambassador Karel van Oosterom.

“What we should not see is an attack on Hodeida port.”

More than 22 million people in Yemen are in need of aid — 8.4 million of whom are on the brink of starvation, according to the United Nations which considers Yemen to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign to push back the Huthis and restore the internationally recognized government to power.

The conflict has left nearly 10,000 people dead in Yemen, already the Arab world’s poorest country.


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