UN special envoy to Yemen urges to keep port of Hodeidah safe

The United Nations’ special envoy for war-torn-country urged to prevent any future attacks on the Houthi-held Red Sea port of Hodeidah and called for the central bank’s independence to be maintained to allow it to pay salaries on both sides of the conflict. Both requests are key conditions set by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, a militant group controlling Yemen’s capital Sanaa, to restart negotiations with the Saudi-backed government, aimed at reaching a political settlement for the conflict.

“The first issue that I came for is to try to avoid in every possible way, the idea of a military operation on Hodeidah because the U.N.’s stance on this has been clear; that we don’t want a military operation in Hodeidah because it would have many humanitarian repercussions and there could be many civilian victims. So we want to avoid this and try to find a solution between all sides to evade the possibility of such an operation,” Ismail Ould Shiekh Ahmed, UN Special Envoy for Yemen.

The Hodeidah port is one of the most strategic areas in Yemen, as it has been the entry point for some 70% of the country’s food supplies and humanitarian aid. The port is also a cause of concern for regional and international powers, considering its close proximity to major maritime shipping lanes, with millions of tons of goods passing in that area, on a daily basis.

Officials warned that a quarter of Yemen’s people are on the brink of famine, parents are marrying off young daughters so someone else can care for them and cholera cases are escalating, as the world body is working to avert a Saudi-led attack on the strategic port.

“I appeal to member states to ensure that all efforts are made to keep Hodeidah port open and operating. An attack on Hodeidah is not in the interest of any party, as it will directly and irrevocably drive the Yemeni population further into starvation and famine,” said Stephen O’Brien, UN Aid Chief.

Military strategists explained to TV7, however, that unless the Saudi-led coalition captures the port from the Iranian backed Houthis, the war will continue and the situation will continue to deteriorate – thus an attack by Saudi Arabia and its allies would have to happen sooner rather than later. An official of the Saudi-led coalition emphasized their determination to help Yemen’s government retake all areas held by the Iranian-backed rebels, including the strategic Hodeidah port, but told TV7 that the coalition would ensure alternative entry routes for badly needed food and medicine.