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UN Security Council to meet Thursday on Yemen port offensive

The UK called for the meeting to be held behind closed doors [File Photo: Getty]

Date of publication: 14 June, 2018

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Urgent talks will be held by the UN Security Council on Thursday following the launch of an offensive on the Yemeni port of Hodeida, diplomats said.

The UN Security Council will meet for urgent talks on Thursday, following the launch of an offensive on the Yemeni port of Hodeida by government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition, diplomats said.

Britain requested the meeting to be held behind closed doors at noon (1600 GMT) - marking the second time this week that the council will have met on the crisis in Yemen.

The United Nations has raised alarm over the military operation, which could cripple deliveries of commercial goods and humanitarian aid to millions in Yemen who are on the brink of famine.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned in a statement that the military operation around Hodeida must not disrupt the flow of goods through the port.

"The coalition have assured us that they are incorporating humanitarian concerns into their operational plans. It is vital to maintain the flow of food, fuel and medical supplies into Yemen," said Johnson in a statement.

The Red Sea port, controlled by the Houthi rebels, serves as the entry point for 70 percent of the impoverished country's imports, but the coalition maintains that the rebels use it to smuggle weapons.

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said he was continuing to hold negotiations on keeping Hodeida open and urged all sides to exercise restraint. 

On Monday, the UN Security Council said it backed Griffiths' diplomatic efforts but did not specifically call on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, whose troops are backing Yemeni forces, to refrain from attacking Hodeida.

The UN envoy had been pressing the Houthis to turn over the port to a UN-supervised committee that would allow shipments of vital supplies to continue to flow through it.

The British foreign secretary urged the Houthis to "not compromise port facilities or hinder the humanitarian response."

More than 22 million people in Yemen are in need of aid, including 8.4 million who are at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations.

Aid groups, which have pulled staff from the town over the detoriorating security situation, have warned of catastrophic consequences.

Save the Children on Wednesday said 300,000 children were in the line of fire.

In a statement it said it was "extremely concerned" that the port in Hodeida will be closed and "despite repeated warnings of the devastating impact this will have, a famine is becoming a real possibility, with hundreds of thousands of lives at risk".

Oxfam's Yemen chief, Muhsin Siddiquey, said: "An attack on Hodeida will bring death, destruction and push vital resources like food, fuel and medicine even further out of reach."

Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign to push back the Houthis after they seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and restore the internationally recognised government to power.

The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and left tens of thousands wounded in what has been described by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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