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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Arab Coalition to open humanitarian corridors between Hodeidah and Sanaa

Turki Al Maliki says Iranian spy ships are transferring military experts to Yemen

Armoured vehicles belonging to the Amalqa ("Giants") Brigades, loyal to the Saudi-backed government, during the offensive to retake Hodeidah from Iran-backed Houthi rebels. AFP
Armoured vehicles belonging to the Amalqa ("Giants") Brigades, loyal to the Saudi-backed government, during the offensive to retake Hodeidah from Iran-backed Houthi rebels. AFP

The Arab Coalition said on Monday that it will open humanitarian corridors between the occupied Red Sea port of Hodeidah and the capital Sanaa in coordination with the United Nations.

"The coalition is working with the UN's humanitarian agency OCHA in Yemen to establish safe humanitarian corridors to help in the delivery of aid...between Hodeidah and Sanaa," coalition spokesman Turki Al Maliki told reporters in Riyadh.

The spokesman accused the Iranian-backed Houthis of using civilians as human shields in Hodeidah, and confirmed that the Arab Coalition is continuing to fight terrorism in Yemen.

"The Iranian regime continues to break international law in efforts to destabilise the region's security. There is an Iranian military ship monitoring the vessels passing through Bab Al Mandab," Mr Al Maliki said.

Iran has repeatedly denied it is arming the Houthis in Yemen, but the United States and Saudi Arabia have accused Tehran of providing military support.

"Our operations continue against suspicious ships that are threatening international shipping in the Red Sea," he said, adding that the coalition suspects an Iranian ship, named Safiz, to be carrying listening devices and transferring military experts to Yemen.

The Arab Coalition has called for the complete withdrawal of the Houthis from Hodeidah, one of Yemen's largest ports. The rebels have offered to hand the operation of the port facility – a vital lifeline for coalition and international aid to reach millions living under the Iran-backed group – to the UN but under their supervision.

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Read more:

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UN aid chief: Fight against famine is being lost in Yemen

Yemen's Houthi rebels cut off food supplies for Hodeidah residents

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This has been rejected by coalition and Yemeni government officials who say the full withdrawal is a prerequisite for ceasefire and peace talks. UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said that the liberation of the port city is key to solving the crisis in Yemen.

"Changing the situation on the ground is vital as the Houthis have undermined Geneva’s political process. The humanitarian dimension of the crisis is linked to the war’s political settlement," Dr Gargash said on Twitter.

UN-led talks in the Swiss city were postponed after representatives of the rebels failed to show up after raising a series of last-minute difficulties. But the government negotiating team attended the scheduled talks and held several meetings with the UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths.

The Houthis first claimed that they had not received authorisation to fly out of Sanaa, the Yemeni capital they seized in 2014, before demanding that wounded rebel fighters be transported to Oman for treatment and a guarantee the delegation would be allowed to return to Yemen.

The Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled Al Yamani dismissed the Houthi demands as "excuses".

Mr Al Yamani said that the international community should have been more serious in their efforts to get the Houthis to go to Geneva.

Yemen's civil war, which began when the Iran-backed rebels seized Sanaa, the capital, in September 2014, has left 22 million people – about 75 per cent of the population – in need of assistance, according to the UN.