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.


Court orders authorities to reveal Israeli citizenship criteria to Palestinian Jerusalemites

Updated 26 November 2020

Court orders authorities to reveal Israeli citizenship criteria to Palestinian Jerusalemites

  • Without Israeli citizenship, residents of East Jerusalem could not obtain an Israeli passport, vote in national elections, or work in state government jobs
  • Vast majority of Jerusalem’s 330,000 stateless Palestinians have not applied

AMMAN: An Israeli court has forced state authorities to reveal the criteria that need to be met for Palestinian Jerusalem youth to become citizens of Israel.

The judicial order will mean that approximately 20,000 Palestinians aged between 18 and 21 living in East Jerusalem will now know the requirements when petitioning for Israeli citizenship, which is not automatically granted to them as residents of the city.

The vast majority of Jerusalem’s 330,000 stateless Palestinians have not applied, nor have the desire, to become Israelis. But the court decision should in future make the application process easier for those interested in carrying an Israeli passport and having the protection of the Israeli government regarding their legal status.

Jerusalem attorney, Mohammed Dahdal, who has practiced civil and human rights law for more than 30 years, noted that without Israeli citizenship, residents of East Jerusalem could not obtain an Israeli passport, vote in national elections, or work in state government jobs, among other things.

However, they did pay taxes to Israel and received social benefits such as national insurance, unemployment payments, and healthcare coverage.

Dahdal told Arab News that after 1988, when Jordan disengaged from the West Bank, which included East Jerusalem, Jerusalemites became stateless citizens. He said the ruling had come about after a Palestinian from Jerusalem had appealed to the court after revealing a loophole in the law.

He noted that the court decision, published by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, made four conditions to ensure receipt of an Israeli passport. “That the applicant has no other citizenship, that they were born in Israel (for Israel, East and West Jerusalem are both parts of Israel), that the applicant is between 18 and 21 years old, and has lived continuously in Israel during the five years preceding applying for citizenship.”

The lawyer added that the Israeli government had fought in court to have the criteria for citizenship kept under wraps.

Former Jordanian member of parliament, Audeh Kawwas, who was on Wednesday appointed as a member of the Jordanian Senate, told Arab News: “If the aim is to solve the statelessness issue of Jerusalemites, I am for it and I have spoken about it (as a committee member) in the World Council of Churches.

“However, if this is an attempt to disenfranchise Palestinians and to make the city more Israeli, then I am totally opposed.”

Hazem Kawasmi, a community activist in Jerusalem, told Arab News that many young Palestinian Jerusalemites were in a desperate situation, as no government or institution was taking care of them and their needs.

He said: “They are living under occupation with daily harassment from the police and Israeli intelligence and face all kinds of racism and enmity.

“Israeli citizenship helps them get high-skilled jobs and it is a prerequisite for many jobs. It helps them travel for tourism or work to Europe and the US without the cumbersome, complicated procedures of getting visas, that is if they get it at all.

“Finally, Israeli citizenship makes the youth feel safe not to lose their residency in Jerusalem and movement and work in Israel,” he added.

Khalil Assali, a member of the Jerusalem Waqf and an observer of Jerusalem affairs, told Arab News that he was doubtful that Israel would speed up the process for granting Israeli citizenship. “They have made this move to show their newly established Arab friends that they are acting democratically.”

Hijazi Risheq, head of the Jerusalem Merchants’ committee, told Arab News that the Israelis were looking for ways to turn the city into a Jewish one. By giving citizenship to youth between the ages of 18 and 21, Israel was aiming to deter them from carrying out hostile acts against Israel and keep them away from the Palestinian National Authority and its security forces, he said.

Jerusalem-based human rights activist, Rifaat Kassis, said: “The idea that Jerusalem is Arab has become an empty slogan. Meanwhile, Israeli racism has become the overriding power that forces Jerusalemites trying to have a dignified life with their families to live under difficult conditions.”