New Yemen anger over ‘time bomb’ oil vessel

The FSO Safer being held hostage by Houthi Militia off Hodeidah in Yemen. (File photo)
Short Url
Updated 05 October 2020

New Yemen anger over ‘time bomb’ oil vessel

  • Houthis again reject UN request to inspect stricken tanker in Red Sea

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: There was renewed anger in Yemen on Sunday after Houthi leaders again refused to allow UN inspectors to board a rusting oil storage vessel moored off the port city of Hodeidah.

Yemeni authorities accused the Houthis of risking an environmental catastrophe in the Red Sea, and called for a tougher UN line against the Iran-backed militias.

“The international community’s lenient approach should stop,” Salem Al-Khanbashi, Yemen’s deputy prime minister, told Arab News on Sunday. 

“The Houthis behave arrogantly because of this approach. The international community should pressure the Houthis to either empty the ship or subject it to immediate maintenance.”

The FSO Safer has been moored 7 km off the coast of Yemen since 1988. It fell into Houthi hands in March 2015, when they took control of the coast around Hodeidah. The vessel has been described as “a ticking time bomb” amid fears that the 1.4 million barrels of oil it contains will start to seep out.

The Houthis briefly bowed to pressure in July and agreed to allow a team of UN engineers to visit the ship, before changing their minds and restating previous demands for the revenue from the oil. 

They have also demanded that the vessel be inspected by engineers from “neutral” countries such as Germany, Sweden, Russia or China, claiming that UN experts would issue a politically motivated report written in advance. 

Al-Khanbashi said his government would agree to authorize the UN to collect and hold revenues from Safer oil sales as a middle ground until any financial dispute was resolved.

He spoke after officials from the UN Yemen envoy’s office and the UN Office for Project Services held a “virtual” meeting with the Houthis to discuss access to the vessel.

The Houthis had been expected to finally agree, but instead they again rejected the request, and claimed that the UN had failed to consider their demands.

Yemeni government officials have long accused the Houthis of using the tanker as leverage to ease economic pressure and extract concessions from the Yemeni government, the Arab coalition and the international community. 

Saudi Arabia alerted the UN Security Council last month about an oil spot in the Red Sea west of the tanker, fueling fears of an impending disaster.  

Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general, said in August that the UN was working on preventing a major catastrophe, and called for experts to visit the vessel immediately.


Turkey condemns Iran scientist killing as ‘terrorism’

Updated 15 min 16 sec ago

Turkey condemns Iran scientist killing as ‘terrorism’

ISTANBUL: Turkey said Sunday that the killing of a key Iranian nuclear scientist was an act of “terrorism” that “upsets peace in the region.”
“We regret the death of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh following an armed attack. We condemn this heinous murder and offer our condolences to the Iranian government and the dead man’s relatives,” Ankara’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Turkey is against all initiatives aimed at disrupting peace in the region and against all forms of terrorism, no matter who their perpetrator or target are.”
Ankara also urged “all parties to act with common sense and restraint.”
Fakhrizadeh, 59, was killed on Friday in a car bomb and gun attack against his own vehicle, the Iranian defense ministry said.
It added that he had been head of the ministry’s research and innovation department.
Tehran has accused Israel and the US of being behind Fakhrizadeh’s killing.
Neighbouring Turkey and Iran are regional powers with a history of complex relations.
While they often line up on opposing sides, recent years have seen them build up cooperation in some areas like energy.