UN urged to prevent Houthi oil ‘disaster’

Neglected, the FSO Safer might leak more than a million barrels of oil into the Red Sea. (File photo)
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Updated 05 July 2020

UN urged to prevent Houthi oil ‘disaster’

  • The Houthis have refused for more than 5 years to allow international engineers to board the Safer to carry out essential repairs
  • The Houthis have rejected all independent international requests to board the vessel

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s government has urged the UN Security Council to intervene to prevent a derelict tanker from leaking more than a million barrels of oil into the Red Sea.

The FSO Safer has been moored 7 km off the coast of Yemen since 1988. The vessel fell into the hands of Iran-backed Houthi militias in March 2015, when they took control of the coast around the port city of Hodeidah.

The Houthis have refused for more than 5 years to allow international engineers to board the Safer to carry out essential repairs, and as the vessel’s condition deteriorates there are fears that the 1.4 million barrels of oil it contains will start to seep out.

An oil leak from the Safer’s tanks would be “one of the biggest environmental disasters in the region and the world,” Yemen’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Hadrami told Christoph Heusgen, Germany’s permanent representative at the UN and president of the Security Council.

The Houthis have rejected all independent international requests to board the vessel, including the latest one from the UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths, who demanded access for an international technical team.

Anwar Al-Ameri, head of the government oil company in Hodeidah, said an oil spill from the Safer would be more destructive to the environment than the damage caused by the oil tanker Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989. “A looming environmental disaster is awaiting the Red Sea countries if the oil tanker Safer is destroyed,” Al-Ameri said.

Michael Aron, UK ambassador to Yemen, has also warned of a potential catastrophe. “The threat to the environment in the Red Sea is enormous, and will impact on all the countries who share this coastline,” he said.

“We urgently need to allow UN experts to board the craft, assess its condition and take the necessary steps to secure the vessel and prevent the oil from leaking.”

Yemeni activists, politicians and government officials have launched a campaign on social media aimed at focusing attention on the derelict vessel and pressing the international community to act quickly to safe Yemen from disaster.

Mohammed Al-Omada, head of the Yemeni Network for Rights and Freedoms, said the Houthis were using the vessel to blackmail the legitimate government into offering concessions in peace talks brokered by the UN Yemen envoy, and to enable them to sell the vessel’s oil.

“We call on the international community to take swift and urgent measures to prevent this serious environmental catastrophe from happening,” he said.


Court testimony claims Turkish general killed after discovering Qatar extremist funding

Updated 04 August 2020

Court testimony claims Turkish general killed after discovering Qatar extremist funding

  • Explosive courtroom transcript says Brig. Gen. Semih Terzi was killed because he knew too much about Turkish general's murky dealings in Syria
  • Turkish officials accused of embezzling money sent from Qatar to arm Syrian militants

LONDON: A Turkish general killed during a failed coup was executed after he found out Qatar was funneling money to extremist groups in Syria through Turkey, according to explosive courtroom claims.

Brig. Gen. Semih Terzi was shot dead in July 2016 during an attempt by some military officers to overthrow the government of Recip Tayyip Erdogan. The alleged plotters were accused of being followers of the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.

According to a courtroom transcript obtained by the anti-Erdogan Nordic Monitor website, Terzi’s killing was ordered by Lt. Gen. Zekai Aksakalli, the then head of Turkey’s Special Forces Command.

The website claims the testimony came from Col. Firat Alakus, who worked in the intelligence section of the Special Forces Command, during a hearing at the 17th High Criminal Court in Ankara in March, 2019.

Alakus said Terzi had discovered that Aksakalli was working secretly with the Turkish intelligence agency (MIT) in running illegal operations in Syria for personal gain.

“[Terzi] knew how much of the funding delivered [to Turkey] by Qatar for the purpose of purchasing weapons and ammunition for the opposition was actually used for that and how much of it was actually used by public officials, how much was embezzled,” Alakus said. 

He added that Terzi’s knowledge of Aksakalli’s murky dealings was the real reason Aksakalli ordered his execution.

Terzi was killed after Aksakalli ordered him back to Ankara from a border province as the failed coup attempt unfolded, Alakus said.

Other accounts say Terzi was one of the main coup plotters and was killed leading an attempt to capture the special forces headquarters in the capital.

Along with the Qatari claim, Alakus said Terzi also knew the details of Turkey’s involvement in oil smuggling from Syria and how government officials aided extremist militant commanders.

He also objected to Turkish intelligence supplying weapons and training to extremist Syrian factions who were passed off as moderate opposition fighters.

“[Terzi’s murder] had to do with a trap devised by Zekai Aksakalli, who did not want such facts to come out into the open,” Alakus said.

Alakus was jailed for life in June 2019 after being convicted for taking part in the coup.