Saudi Arabia will 'reopen Yemen airports, seaports' after harsh criticism about humanitarian disaster
Saudi Arabia said Monday that the Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen will begin reopening airports and seaports in the Arab world's poorest country following mounting pressure from human rights groups.
It comes days after Riyadh intensified its blockade on Yemen after a rebel ballistic missile attack on the Saudi capital.
"The first step in this process will be taken within 24 hours and involves reopening all the ports in areas controlled by" Yemen's internationally-recognised government, which the coalition backs, the mission's statement said.
The Saudi-led coalition hopes that will prevent "the smuggling of weapons, ammunitions, missile parts and cash that are regularly being supplied by Iran and Iranian accomplices to the Houthi rebels", it added.
The announcement from the Saudi mission at the United Nations comes after the coalition the rebels, known as the Houthis, has faced widespread international criticism over the closure, with the UN and over 20 aid groups saying it could bring millions of people closer to "starvation and death".
The coalition said ports in Aden, Mocha and Mukalla will be reopened, as for ports in rebel-held or disputed territories, like Hodeida, it said it has asked the UN to send a team of experts to discuss ways to make sure weapons will not be smuggled in.
Saudi Arabia announced it had shut down all ports after a ballistic missile attack last week on Riyadh near its international airport by the Houthis.
Saudi Arabia and the United States have accused Iran of supplying the ballistic missile used in that attack, saying the missiles bore "Iranian markings" - an accusation the Houthis have denied.
Iran has long denied supplying any arms to Yemen, though it has backed the Houthis and highlighted the high civilian casualties from the Saudi-led coalition's campaign of air raids.
The UN has listed Yemen as the world's number one humanitarian crisis, with 17 million people in need of food, seven million of whom are at risk of famine.
More than 2,000 Yemenis have died in a cholera outbreak now affecting nearly one million people.
Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in neighbouring Yemen in March 2015 to push back the Iran-backed Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa, and restore the government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power.