UN steps up inspection of aid ships to Yemen

Number of inspectors to increase from four to 10 and also improve the inpsection technology

Geneva: The United Nations is beefing up its inspections of ships bringing humanitarian aid to Yemen to ensure that no military items are being smuggled and to speed delivery of desperately-needed relief supplies, UN and Saudi officials say.

The move comes as the armed Al Houthi militia controlling much of northern Yemen steps up attacks on Saudi Arabia, hitting an oil tanker in the Red Sea on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia accuses l Iran of supplying missiles to Al Houthis, who have taken over the Yemeni capital Sana’a and other parts of the country.

Under an arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council, monitors from the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) are based in ports in Djibouti, Dubai, Jeddah and Salalah to observe screening of cargo destined for Yemen.

“We met with the UNVIM director and his team in Riyadh and we agreed on improved and enhanced capability,” Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammad Al Jaber told reporters in Geneva on Wednesday.

He said UNVIM would increase its inspectors to 10 from four and its monitors to 16 from six and would also improve its technology to inspect ships.

The team supporting the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen Lise Grande confirmed to Reuters on Thursday those steps taken to increase the number of monitors and inspectors and the use of scanning equipment.

A major UN pledging conference on Yemen was held this week, drawing pledges of more than $2 billion toward a $3 billion UN humanitarian appeal.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which lead coalition air strikes in Yemen in support of the internationally-recognised government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, have contributed $500 million each.

“We are cooperating with the UNVIM and other UN organisations to facilitate and to increase the amount of ships that arrive to Hodeida port,” Al Jaber said, referring to Yemen’s main port for humanitarian and commercial goods, under Al Houthi control.

UNVIM only checks commercial and aid ships going to northern ports under Houthi control – Hodeida, Salif and Ras Eisa – and not to Aden, which is under government control.

Yemen, the Arabian peninsula’s poorest country, is reeling from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis where 22 million people need vital assistance.

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