RIYADH: The United Nations said on Wednesday that it has yet to receive approval to access the Safer tanker stranded in the Red Sea off Yemen.
“Although discussions on access to Safer have been constructive, we are yet to receive the approvals needed for the mission. Given what is at stake, it is of the utmost importance that Ansar Allah give the United Nations the green light to proceed,” said UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths during a UN Security Council briefing on the humanitarian situation in the war-torn country.
The Safer tanker is carrying 1.1 million barrels of crude oil and has been stranded for more than five years. The UN has warned that the vessel could spill four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia told the UN in September that “a pipeline attached to the vessel is suspected to have been separated from the stabilizers holding it to the bottom and is now floating on the surface of the sea.”
Griffiths said that the UN has been trying to negotiate access for months for the expert mission to conduct an assessment of the condition of the vessel and undertake initial repairs to avoid a spill.
Griffiths said he was “deeply concerned by periodic spikes in violence between the two parties, particularly in Marib and Taiz, and the recent escalation in attacks on Saudi territory, which we all believe should be stopped immediately.”
The Arab coalition said on Monday that they had intercepted two drones launched by the Iran-backed Houthi militia from Yemeni territory toward the Kingdom.
He called on the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council to implement the Riyadh Agreement swiftly, which he said they desperately need to work for the sake of the Yemeni people and the peace process.
— Mark Lowcock (@UNReliefChief) November 11, 2020
“In terms of Hodeidah, I must underline there’s no better option than that cease-fire, combined with a return nationally to a political process. That is essential for the parties to create stability on all those frontlines and that is what they can bring to the Yemeni people through the joint declaration,” Griffiths said.
Meanwhile, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock confirmed to the Security Council that they are yet to receive official approval for the assessment and initial repair mission of the Safer tanker.
“After several more rounds of extensive discussions, the Ansar Allah authorities continue to indicate they will approve the mission,” he said.
Lowcock also said that the Houthi militia are impeding humanitarian access and blocking the “safe and rapid arrival” of relief supplies.
He said the UN strongly condemns the attacks on Oct. 19, when a Turkish Red Crescent worker was shot and seriously injured in Aden, and on Nov. 2, when a grenade was thrown at an aid agency compound, also in Aden.
He also said that the Yemeni rial continues to lose value.
“In the south, the exchange rate is hovering around 840 rial to the US dollar — the lowest rate in its history — and the government is unable to defend the currency or subsidize imports because it lacks foreign currency reserves,” he added.