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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Saudi Arabia installing cranes at three Yemen ports to boost aid delivery

Key port of Hodeidah will receive assistance as well once rebels give up control to neutral party

A pro-government fighter at Yemen's Red Sea port of Mokha, where the Saudi-led coalition supporting the government is building cranes to speed up deliveries of humanitarian aid. Saleh Al Obeidi / AFP / February 9, 2017
A pro-government fighter at Yemen's Red Sea port of Mokha, where the Saudi-led coalition supporting the government is building cranes to speed up deliveries of humanitarian aid. Saleh Al Obeidi / AFP / February 9, 2017

Saudi Arabia has said it is installing four cranes at three ports in Yemen to speed up deliveries of humanitarian aid and was ready to do the same at the key rebel-held port of Hodeidah if it is placed under the control of a neutral party.

The cranes are being installed at the ports of Aden, Mukalla and Mokha, the Saudi mission to the United Nations said on Thursday.

All three southern ports are under the control of the Saudi-led military coalition supporting Yemen's internationally recognised government.

"Saudi Arabia is deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation," the Saudi mission said. "We have always supported every effort to ensure that the people of Yemen receive the aid and relief they require, especially in times of crisis."

The coalition, which began an air campaign in March 2015 to help defeat the Iran-allied Houthi rebels, has said it is determined to help Yemen's government retake all areas of the country held by Iran-backed Houthi militia, including Hodeidah port, and would ensure alternative entry routes for badly needed food and medicine.

The United Nations has sought to avert attacks on Hodeidah, a vital Red Sea aid delivery point for millions of Yemenis in danger of slipping into famine. Around 80 per cent of Yemen's food imports arrive via Hodeidah.

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Houthi rebels are accused of using the port to smuggle weapons and ammunition and the Saudi-led coalition has called for UN monitors to be posted there. It backs a UN proposal to hand control of Hodeidah to a neutral party to improve the flow of humanitarian relief and prevent the port being engulfed by the conflict.

"The coalition ... reaffirms its readiness to facilitate the immediate installation of cranes at the port of Hodeidah, in line with the secretary general's special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's latest proposals," the Saudi statement said.

The UN Security Council urged the warring parties in Yemen in June to reach a UN-brokered deal on management of Hodeidah and the resumption of government salary payments as the country slides closer to famine.

Top UN officials said last month that the conflict in Yemen was fuelling an unprecedented deadly cholera outbreak, driving millions closer to famine and hindering humanitarian aid access.