United Nations shuttle diplomacy aims to avert assault on vital Yemen port

Pauline Gross
June 12, 2018

He warned that the Saudi-led coalition - which is waging an air war in Yemen - will retaliate in time.

Saudi sources said the United Nations special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, was in the Houthi-controlled capital, Sanaa, to discuss the possibility of worldwide control of the port, according to the Guardian. Once envisioned as an Emirati-led amphibious assault needing advanced U.S. boats to navigate Red Sea minefields laid by Iran, the 45,000-strong force of Yemeni troops has instead moved along the coast in a two-month offensive to reach Hodeidah with refueling support from new helicopter bases.

UAE forces are poised to attack the port of Hodeidah as early as Tuesday as part of their campaign with Saudi Arabia to defeat the Houthi rebels who have seized much of north Yemen.

Urgent British-led efforts at the UN were under way to dissuade the United Arab Emirates and the Saudis from pressing ahead with the attack - or at least to give undertakings that it will not seek to starve Hodeidah into submission.

The city is split between government and rebel control.

But he urged them to support United Nations peace efforts.

"We are, at the present moment, in intense consultation", Guterres told reporters on Monday.

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The UN said last week that up to 250,000 people could die if the port is attacked or besieged.

Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since the alliance launched its intervention, contributing to what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The fighting has escalated as government forces close in on the Red Sea port of Hodeida, a vital lifeline through which most of Yemen's food and medicine enters.

"I have spoken with Emirati leaders and made clear our desire to address their security concerns while preserving the free flow of humanitarian aid and life-saving commercial imports", he said. "But we are also anxious about the humanitarian situation". Aid agencies have warned that an attack would have catastrophic consequences.

"If an attack does take place, casualties on all sides will be high, with a likely catastrophic impact on the civilian population", they wrote in a letter to the foreign secretary.

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.

Since the Coalition launched its support for the Yemeni government in March 2015, Houthis have fired 149 ballistic issiles and 66,315 projectiles toward Saudi Arabia.

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

Other reports by GizPress

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