Saudi-led coalition denies Yemen ‘blockade’

Maj. Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri, spokesman of the Saudi-led Coalition supporting the government of Yemen, fields questions from reporters in this file photo. (SPA)
Updated 25 October 2016

Saudi-led coalition denies Yemen ‘blockade’

DUBAI: The Saudi-led coalition denied on Tuesday it had imposed a “blockade” on Yemen, saying instead that it was only controlling access to the country to prevent pro-Iran rebels from obtaining arms.
“No, there is no blockade,” coalition spokesman Major General Ahmed Assiri told AFP.
“There is control based on international law... Control is different from blockade, which means that nobody can enter or leave” the country, he said.
Assiri also spoke of “restriction” and “controlled freedom of movement.”
“If a boat leaves from Djibouti, before reaching Hodeida (port in western Yemen), our forces board the vessel to ensure the cargo is legal and complies with Resolution 2216,” adopted by the UN Security Council in April 2015 and prohibiting the delivery of arms to the rebels in Yemen, he said.
The coalition, which began its bombing campaign against rebels in Yemen in March 2015 in support of the internationally recognized government, accuses Iran of arming the Houthi insurgents and their allies.
The United States has made similar accusations, but Tehran denies the charges.
Saying that Yemen has been under blockade since March 2015 “gives the wrong impression,” Assiri said.
Ships carrying food and medical aid as well as people and goods have reached “all ports, including those controlled by the Houthis” such as Hodeida, he said.
But he acknowledged that only “aircraft from humanitarian organizations and the United Nations” can land or take off from rebel-controlled capital Sanaa.
“They are the only aircraft that do not undergo inspection,” he said.
Asked why commercial aircraft from national carrier Yemenia can no longer operate in Sanaa, stranding thousands of civilians, Assiri said this was to ensure passenger safety and that the airline was not used by the rebels to transfer arms.
He said that planes can use the airport in second city Aden which pro-government forces recaptured with the help of the coalition in July 2015.
If the road between Sanaa and Aden is too risky for civilian use, “it’s because of the Houthis,” he said.
“We are not angels,” he said. “But this is an exceptional period that requires exceptional measures.”
“We understand the difficulties facing the population in Yemen, but the situation has changed” because of the war.
On humanitarian aid, Assiri said the “problem is not that it is not coming to Yemen, but who controls it” once it enters.
He accused the rebels of blocking aid outside the government-held city of Taiz, which the insurgents have besieged for months, or at Hodeida.
They “sell it for prices three to 10 times higher, or use it to feed their troops or pressure tribes that do not work with them,” he charged.
Nearly 6,900 people have been killed in the Yemen conflict, more than half of them civilians, an additional three million have been displaced and millions more need food aid.

Iran seizes British tanker in Strait of Hormuz for breaking ‘maritime rules’

Updated 2 min 26 sec ago

Iran seizes British tanker in Strait of Hormuz for breaking ‘maritime rules’

  • UK government convened an emergency COBRA meeting to formulate its response
  • The Stena company responsible for the ship also released a statement

TEHRAN: Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps announced on Friday they had confiscated a British tanker in the strategic Strait of Hormuz for breaking "international maritime rules."

The Stena Impero tanker "was confiscated by the Revolutionary Guards at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organisation when passing through the strait of Hormuz, for failing to respect international maritime rules," the Guards' official website Sepahnews announced.

The UK government convened an emergency COBRA meeting to formulate its response and a foreign ministry spokesperson said: "We are urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf."

The Stena company responsible for the ship also released a statement, which read: "Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management can confirm that at approximately 1600 BST on 19th July, UK registered vessel Stena Impero (built 2018, 49,683 DWT) was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters. We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north towards Iran.

"There are 23 seafarers aboard. There have been no reported injuries and their safety is of primary concern to both owners and managers. The priority of both vessel owner Stena Bulk and ship manager Northern Marine Management is the safety and welfare of the crew.

"Northern Marine Management has not been able to establish contact directly with the vessel since it was notified of the incident at approximately 1600 Today, 19th July 2019. We are in close contact with UK government authorities."