World powers round on Houthis over Yemen’s ‘time bomb’ oil tanker

Update World powers round on Houthis over Yemen’s ‘time bomb’ oil tanker
World powers at the UN warned the Houthis they would be responsible for an environmental disaster if an oil tanker moored off Yemen’s coast breaks up. (File/AFP)
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Updated 16 April 2021

World powers round on Houthis over Yemen’s ‘time bomb’ oil tanker

World powers round on Houthis over Yemen’s ‘time bomb’ oil tanker
  • The decaying FSO Safer tanker has been under the control of the Iran backed militia since 2015
  • The ship could spill more than a million barrels of oil into the Red Sea

NEW YORK: World powers at the UN have warned the Houthis that they would be responsible for an environmental disaster if an oil tanker moored off Yemen’s coast breaks up.

The decaying FSO Safer tanker, which has been described as a ticking time bomb, has been under the control of the Iran-backed militia since 2015.

The ship could spill more than a million barrels of oil into the Red Sea, yet the Houthis have repeatedly blocked the UN from sending a team of expert to the vessel.

“The Houthis have not yet agreed to facilitate a UN assessment mission,” the UK’s permanent representative to the UN Barbara Woodward said. “The vessel is under Houthi control and the responsibility for this matter rests on Houthi shoulders.”

She said if the Houthis fail to act then the UK would discuss further steps at the Security Council.

Woodward’s warning was echoed by France’s envoy to the UN Nicolas de Rivière who said the Houthis would be responsible for the imminent environmental, economic and humanitarian threat posed by the Safer if they don’t “immediately” allow access to the UN’s assessment team.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the UN, said the Houthis must allow the assessment of the tanker to proceed “without further delays.”

The Arab coalition, on Thursday, destroyed five ballistic missiles and four explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthis toward Saudi Arabia.

Jazan University was one of the targets as well as other civilian sites protected under international humanitarian law, coalition spokesman Turki Al-Malki said, adding that the actions amount to war crimes.

The international community bears responsibility for prolonging the crisis in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia should not simply wait for the Iran-backed Houthis to cause a disaster, according to a Saudi expert in international relations.

Political analyst Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri said on Thursday that although a number of proposals had been put forward to put an end to Yemen’s ongoing conflict, there had been a lack of will from the international community to implement those initiatives.

“The international community is delaying taking action against the Houthis for its own interests,” Al-Shehri told Arab News. “The international community’s regional interests are its top priority, not Yemen or the Yemenis,” he added.

Al-Shehri believes that, in the face of continued silence from the international community, Saudi Arabia should “confront power with power” when dealing with Houthi attacks.

“We should not wait until the Houthis cause a disaster. We count on the Arab coalition and the Yemeni army, especially after the UN’s leniency with regard to putting pressure on the Houthis to accept diplomatic solutions,” Al-Shehri said.