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'Yemen's warring parties should protect ports, not UN'

March 21, 2017 at 9:47 pm

The warring parties in Yemen are responsible for the protection of civilians and infrastructure and not others, the United Nations said today in response to a Saudi-led military coalition calling for the UN to supervise a strategic port.

The coalition, which has been fighting Iran-allied Houthi rebels and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh since 2015, on Sunday proposed that the UN monitor Al-Hudaydah port after an attack on a boatload of Somali refugees killed 42 people.

Parties to the conflict have a clear responsibility to protect civilian infrastructure and fundamentally to protect civilians. These are not obligations they can shift to others

UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters.

The refugees had departed Al-Hudaydah en route to Sudan when a helicopter opened fire on Friday, the United Nations refugee agency said. The Saudi-led coalition denied responsibility for the attack.

The Red Sea port near the Bab Al-Mandab strait is under the control of Yemen’s armed Houthi movement. The Bab Al-Mandab is a strategic waterway through which nearly four million barrels of oil are shipped daily.

Read: Saudi calls on UN to supervise Yemen port

Haq said that with Yemen almost entirely dependent on importing food and other commodities it was “essential that all parties to the conflict facilitate unhindered access to Yemen’s ports for humanitarian and commercial cargo, including Al-Hudaydah port, which serves 70 per cent of Yemen’s affected population.”

Al-Hudaydah is part of a broad battlefront where forces loyal to Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, are fighting the Houthi movement, which controls most of northern and western Yemen.