UNITED NATIONS: Britain on Wednesday requested an urgent UN Security Council meeting after Yemen government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive on the key port of Hodeida, diplomats said.
The United Nations has raised alarm over the military operation, which could cripple deliveries of commercial goods and humanitarian aid to millions in Yemen who are on the brink of famine.
The council is expected to meet Thursday, which would be the second time this week that the top UN body has held talks on the crisis in Yemen.
The request came after UN envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said he was continuing to hold negotiations on keeping Hodeida open.
The Red Sea port, controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, serves as the entry point for 70 percent of the impoverished country’s imports, but the coalition maintains that the rebels use it to smuggle weapons.
The United Nations has warned that up to 250,000 people were at risk if the coalition moves ahead with an all-out offensive to take Hodeida.
The council on Monday said it backed Griffiths’ diplomatic efforts but did not specifically call on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, whose troops are backing Yemeni forces, to refrain from attacking Hodeida.
The UN envoy has been pressing the Houthis to turn over the port to a UN-supervised committee that would allow shipments of vital supplies to continue to flow through Hodeida.
More than 22 million people in Yemen are in need of aid including 8.4 million who are at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations which considers Yemen to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign to push back the Houthis and restore the internationally recognized government to power.
The conflict has left nearly 10,000 people dead, tens of thousands wounded in what was already the Arab world’s poorest country.