UN Security Council demands ‘unconditional’ access to decaying Yemen tanker

Members of the Security Council on Friday called on the Iran-backed Houthis to immediately give access to UN experts to the decaying Safer tanker in the Red Sea. (File/AFP)
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Updated 17 October 2020

UN Security Council demands ‘unconditional’ access to decaying Yemen tanker

  • Recent images showing water leaking into the decaying Safer tanker off the Yemeni western city of Hodeidah have triggered international uproar
  • Diplomats warned that the tanker’s cargo would cause a major disaster in the Red Sea if the tanker collapsed

AL-MUKALLA: Members of the Security Council on Friday called on the Iran-backed Houthis to immediately give access to UN experts to the decaying Safer tanker in the Red Sea.
“The members of the Security Council recognized the grave threat posed by the Safer oil tanker, whose dire and dilapidated condition risks an environmental, economic and humanitarian catastrophe to Yemen and the region, and they called on the Houthis to urgently facilitate unconditional and safe access for UN experts to conduct an assessment and repair mission,” the members said in a joint statement.
“They welcomed the recent contributions made by Saudi Arabia, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and France, and the mobilization of the Peace Support Facility,” the statement said thanking the countries that pledged to fund the maintenance mission.
Recent images showing water leaking into the decaying Safer tanker off the Yemeni western city of Hodeidah have triggered international uproar as environmentalists and diplomats warned that the tanker’s cargo of more than 1 million barrels of crude oil would cause a major disaster in the Red Sea if the tanker collapsed. Other experts say that a stray shell from nearby battlefields would cause an explosion more powerful than the one that rocked Beirut in August.
The Houthis have blocked vital maintenance of the tanker since 2015 and insisted on including experts from countries that did not back the Arab coalition’s military operation in the committee that could inspect the tanker.
The US has called on the Houthis to smooth the way for the UN experts to visit the tanker. “We also call for unconditional access for the UN experts to assess and repair the Safer tanker, which threatens the Red Sea and people of Yemen with catastrophic consequences, including environmental and economic damage and a severe reduction of food and aid imports,” Kelly Craft, US ambassador to the UN, said at a UN Security Council briefing on the situation in Yemen.
Yemen’s government promised to facilitate the mission of the UN experts, urging the international community to mount more pressure on the Houthis not to politicize the oil tanker. “With regard to the Safer oil tanker, the government of Yemen calls on the Security Council to assume its responsibilities and pressure the Houthis to stop politicizing the issue and immediately allow the UN teams access to the tanker to undertake assessment and repair works to avert an imminent catastrophe,” Abdullah Al-Saadi, Yemen’s permanent representative at the UN said.
The Security Council expressed its “steadfast” support for the UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths and called upon warring factions in Yemen to accept the UN-initiated Joint Declaration.
Inspired by the latest successful prisoner swap between the legitimate government and the Houthis, veteran former diplomats and current government officials believe that only direct talks will lead to a truce and address thorny issues.
“Prisoner swap talks succeeded only because Yemenis engaged in direct talks. They quarelled at the beginning of the talks, but they reached a consensus by the end of the day,” a senior government official said. “So I suggest calling for direct talks before anything else.”
Majed Fadhail, deputy minister of human rights and a member of the government delegation in the prisoner swap talks in Switzerland, agreed that talks succeeded when they and the Houthis met face to face.
Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi, Yemen’s former foreign minister, said that recent prisoner swap has rekindled hopes for a comprehensive agreement that would end the war. “The (UN) envoy should immediately call the parties to direct negotiations on the Joint Declaration document, as it is the most effective and shortest way to consensus,” he tweeted.
The conflict in Yemen began in late 2014 when the Houthis seized control of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and subsequently expanded across Yemen. The war has killed more than 100,000 people and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN.


Security forces keep radical protesters away from French Embassy in Beirut

Updated 39 min 54 sec ago

Security forces keep radical protesters away from French Embassy in Beirut

  • Calls for a demonstration by radical Islamic groups spread on social media platforms
  • Security forces had anticipated Friday’s protest and tightened security in the heart of Beirut

BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces prevented the arrival of hundreds of protesters at the French ambassador’s residence and the French Embassy in Lebanon on Friday.

They feared the recurrence of riots similar to the ones that erupted in front of the Danish Embassy in Ashrafieh, Beirut, in 2006, and led to 28 people being injured, damage to storefronts, and the burning of the consulate building and terrorizing of people.

A few hundred worshippers left mosques after Friday prayers and marched to defend the Prophet Muhammad.

Calls for a demonstration by radical Islamic groups spread on social media platforms.

Khaldoun Qawwas, Dar Al-Fatwa’s media spokesperson, told Arab News: “These groups have nothing to do with Dar Al-Fatwa, which has already announced its position regarding what happened in France in two separate statements.”

Sheikh Abdul Latif Deryan, the grand mufti of Lebanon, in a statement issued a week earlier, said that “freedom of opinion and expression does not entail insulting the beliefs and symbols of others, and this requires a reconsideration of the concept of absolute freedom.”

He stressed the “renunciation of violence and confrontation of radicalism and terrorism that has no religion or race.”

Security forces had anticipated Friday’s protest and tightened security in the heart of Beirut, since the embassy and the French ambassador’s residence are located where roads leading to the city’s western and eastern neighborhoods intersect. This led to a huge traffic jam in the capital.

The protest’s starting point was the Gamal Abdel Nasser Mosque in Al-Mazraa, situated only a few kilometers from the Residence des Pins (Pine Residence).

Three major security checkpoints — one set up by the riot police — separated the Residence des Pins and protesters, some of whom were transported by buses from the north of Lebanon to Beirut.

Protesters held Islamic signs and chanted slogans denouncing France, its President Emmanuel Macron and its former colonization of the country. Some protesters tried to remove barbed wire and threw stones, water bottles and batons at the security forces. Another group burned the French flag. Security forces responded by throwing tear gas canisters, leading to the retreat of the protesters.

In a statement, Lebanon’s Supreme Council of the Roman Catholic condemned “the terrorist attack in the French city of Nice.”

The council considered that “this terrorist crime has nothing to do with Islam and Muslims. It is an individual act carried out by terrorists haunted by radicalism, obscurantism and the rejection of the French people’s historical civilizational values. Through their acts, they abuse the spirit of tolerance, coexistence, acceptance of the other and the freedom of thought and belief which all religions call for.”

The council called for “staying away from defaming religions and beliefs and inciting hate and resentment among people, raising the voice of moderation, wisdom and reason, working together in the spirit of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together announced by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb from the UAE last year.”

During the Friday sermon, Grand Jaafari Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Kabalan condemned “any criminal act against any people, including the French people.” He added: “We categorically reject what happened in Nice yesterday, strongly condemn it and consider it a blatant and insolent attack on Muslims before others.”

He simultaneously condemned “the official French position that affronted the Prophet, took lightly and made light of the feelings of millions of Muslims.”