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UN: Houthi reports on damaged oil tanker 'disappointing'

An oil contaminated beach is pictured after a tanker sank off the coast of Yemen's southern port city of Aden on July 21, 2021. [SALEH OBAIDI/AFP via Getty Images]
An oil contaminated beach is pictured after a tanker sank off the coast of Yemen's southern port city of Aden on July 21, 2021. [SALEH OBAIDI/AFP via Getty Images]

The United Nations yesterday described statements made by Houthi leader, Abdul Malik Al-Ajri, regarding oil tanker FSO Safer as "disappointing", Anadolu news agency reported.

"We have seen the recent statements from the Ansar Allah [Houthis] authorities in Sana'a on the Safer tanker issue, which we find disappointing," deputy spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, Farhan Haq, told reporters. He added that in November 2020 the UN agreed with the Houthis on a mission plan to assess the tanker and, "if conditions are safe enough onboard, to do some light maintenance to help minimize the risk of an oil spill".

"From what we can understand, the Houthis are demanding advance guarantees that the UN will complete all the potential light maintenance activities in the mission plan," Haq said, explaining that the Safer is anchored in a very dangerous site, and "advance guarantees — before verifying conditions onboard — are not possible."

"We remain eager to help. For a UN-led solution, that starts with an assessment and, if it's safe enough, some light maintenance that we hope will buy a bit more time for a longer-term solution. We also remain open-minded regarding any other safe, quick solutions to this problem," he added.

Al-Ajri has previously claimed that the UN has retreated from the framework agreement reached for the urgent maintenance of the Safer tanker.

The 45-year-old FSO Safer vessel has been anchored near the strategic western Red Sea port of Al-Hudaydah, which has been under blockade by the Saudi-coalition since March 2015.

Both the de facto government in Sanaa and Riyadh have traded accusations as to who is ultimately responsible for the fate of the tanker. Last year, a Houthi official announced that a rescue team had been dispatched to the Safer to carry out maintenance work.

The UN-recognised government-in-exile has blamed the Houthi authorities for any leaks from the tanker because it's moored in territory under their control. However, Sanaa has insisted that it is the coalition which should be held accountable as it controls the waters near the vessel and has also prevented the Houthis from selling the oil which is still on board.

Yemen: Abandoned tanker sinks causing oil spill in Gulf of Aden

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International OrganisationsMiddle EastNewsUNYemen
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