Saudi Arabia has reopened some ports in Yemen a week after the Saudi-led military coalition battling the Houthi movement there announced a temporary closure of all Yemeni ports to staunch the tide of arms being sent to Houthi rebels from Iran.
The country’s mission to the United Nations (UN) said on Monday that the seaports of Aden, Mokha and Mukalla would resume normal activity within 24 hours, alongside Aden and Seyoun airports.
However, rebel-controlled, major ports and airports, where most of the country’s aid moves through, will stay closed until Riyadh (the Saudi capital) has sought advice from UN experts on how to prevent the smuggling in of weapons.
Saudi Arabia has called on the UN to send a delegation to Riyadh to review the new system, which it said aimed to facilitate aid and commercial shipments while preventing weapons and cash smuggling.
The country also said it would work with the UN on provisions to reopen the Port of Hodeida (Al Hudaydah) and Sana’a International Airport using these measures.
The decision to reopen some Yemeni ports comes after the Saudi Kingdom’s order to halt all transport in and out of Yemen to prevent weapons smuggling prompted outrage from the UN and over 20 aid groups, which claimed that even a temporary closure would put millions of people in Yemen nearer to “starvation and death”.
The UN aid chief Mark Lowcock said that if the Saudi-led coalition failed to permit humanitarian aid access to Yemen, it would provoke “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades with millions of victims.”
The announcement of the temporary closure of all air, land and sea ports followed the interception earlier this month of a Houthi missile launched towards Riyadh, an attack which the Kingdom immediately blamed on the Houthis’ allies, Lebanese Hezbollah and regional rival Iran.
Iran has long denied providing arms in the Yemeni conflict.
The coalition has been targeting the Houthi rebels since 2015, when they seized parts of Yemen including its capital Sana'a, obligating President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee and seek help from Saudi Arabia.