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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Saudi Arabia blasts 'Houthi terrorist' actions as UN warns of famine

Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it had closed all air, sea and land borders with Yemen, allowing only humanitarian supplies to pass through

Yemeni President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh Saudi Press Agency/Handout via Reuters
Yemeni President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh Saudi Press Agency/Handout via Reuters

Saudi Arabia has delivered a letter to the UN Security Council detailing the “terrorist actions” of the Houthi rebels in Yemen and calling for measures to be taken against Iran for supporting them.

The letter was sent as the UN issued a warning that Yemen is facing the worst famine the world has seen in decades.

Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it had closed all air, sea and land borders with Yemen, allowing only humanitarian supplies to pass through. The measure was taken after the kingdom shot down a ballistic missile near Riyadh on Saturday that was fired by the Houthis and supplied by Iran, Saudi authorities said.

The Saudi-led coalition, which is fighting to restore the internationally-backed government, have also repeatedly accused the Houthis and their allies of blocking and hindering the distribution of aid in the country.

“The Houthi's continued resort to violence, refusal to return to legitimacy and abide by the relevant Security Council resolutions, have resulted in the catastrophic humanitarian situation and is obstructing the political solution to the conflict,” Saudi Arabia’s UN mission said on Twitter.

The letter said Iran continues to import weapons and ballistics into Yemen, allowing the Houthis to continue the violence.

This is “clear evidence of Iran's hostile behaviour, its support of violence and terrorism threatening the kingdom, the region and the world”.

Despite the coalition’s assurances, Mark Lowcock, the UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said on Wednesday that unless aid shipments resumed to Yemen "it will be the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims".

Mr Lowcock told a Security Council meeting that UN humanitarian flights should be allowed to resume to the rebel-held capital Sanaa and to the government-controlled city of Aden.

The coalition said Yemen’s borders had been closed "to fill the gaps in the inspection procedures, which enable the continued smuggling of missiles and military equipment to the Houthi militias loyal to Iran in Yemen".

Mr Lowcock urged for there to be "immediate access to all seaports" for deliveries of fuel, food and other vital supplies — as well as assurances from the coalition that there will be no further disruption.

Some 17 million Yemenis are in desperate need of food, seven million of whom are at risk of famine and a cholera outbreak has killed more than 2,000 people.

April Longley Alley, senior analyst at International Crisis Group, said that the closure of borders, ports and airports could have “devastating consequences for an already desperate humanitarian situation,” depending on how long it goes on for.

With shrinking supplies from Hodeida port, which is controlled by the rebels on the Red Sea coast, “the Saudi border crossing and Aden have increasingly filled the gap for supplying Houthi controlled areas, which contain the majority of Yemen’s population”, she said.

The UN meeting took place hours after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Yemeni President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi discussed efforts made towards preserving security and stability in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the two main pillars of the Arab coalition, which is supporting troops allied to Mr Hadi's UN-recognized government against the Houthis.

The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis seized Sanaa by force, attacked Mr Hadi and government officials several times, forcing them into exile.

The coalition drove the Houthis from much of Yemen’s south but the conflict became bogged down around the central city of Taez and along the Red Sea coast.

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