By MarEx 2015-05-20 11:30:03
Iran will allow the United Nations to inspect a Yemen-bound aid ship at the regional U.N. hub in Djibouti, Tehran’s deputy foreign minister was quoted as saying on Wednesday, offering a chance to avert a showdown with Saudi-led forces.
Earlier in the day, the Iran Shahed’s captain had said the ship was due to enter the Bab al-Mandeb strait linking the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea, bypassing Djibouti on the Horn of Africa and heading for the Yemeni port of Hodaida.
“We have decided to dock our ship in Djibouti so the United Nations inspection protocol can take place,” Hossein Amir Abdollahian was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.
Iran backs the dominant Houthi militia in Yemen’s civil war while Saudi Arabia, Tehran’s regional arch-rival, sees the Houthis as a threat and is leading air strikes on them to try to roll back their advances and reinstate Yemen’s exiled president.
Iran has said the ship is carrying humanitarian aid for Yemeni civilians. Hodaida’s port is under Houthi control.
The Saudi-led coalition controls the waters around Yemen and has enforced inspections on all shipments entering the country. It was not clear whether Saudi forces would allow the Iran Shahed to dock in Yemen even after a U.N. inspection.
Abdollahian said Iran would send a flight to Djibouti on Thursday, also containing aid for Yemen, in a further signal that Tehran might begin to channel all aid through the U.N. hub.
The Saudi-led coalition blocked Tehran’s previous attempts to fly aid directly into Yemen’s capital Sanaa, on one occasion bombing the runway to prevent an Iranian flight from landing.
UN Announces Yemen Talks
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday announced talks between warring Yemeni parties in Geneva on May 28 to end over seven weeks of war, as Iran agreed for international inspections of an aid ship sailing to Yemen.
The moves are aimed at defusing the deepening crisis in the southern Arabian Peninsula, where Saudi-led forces killed at least 15 Houthis in the latest air strikes in a campaign to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
“The Secretary-General is pleased to announce the launch of inclusive consultations starting on 28 May in Geneva to restore momentum towards a Yemeni-led political transition process,” the U.N. statement issued in New York said.
A U.N. Security Council source said Ban was expected to attend the opening session.
The foreign minister of the exiled Yemeni government based in Saudi Arabia appeared surprised by the announcement and said the Houthis must first disarm and quit cities they seized since last September first.
“We didn’t get an official invitation,” Reyad Yassin Abdulla said by phone. “It’s very short notice. If it happens, it shouldn’t be on May 28,” he added.
But Yemen’s U.N. Ambassador Khaled Alyemany said all parties, including the Houthis, would attend.
“Of course President Hadi will be represented in Geneva,” he told reporters in New York. “He might be sending Vice President and Prime Minister (Khaled) Bahah, he might be sending somebody else.”