Iran officials meet Houthi delegation amid Red Sea escalation

The risk of the Israel-Gaza conflict morphing into a wider regional conflict rose at the weekend after US helicopters repelled a maritime attack by the Yemeni rebels

The USS Carter Hall and the USS Bataan transit Bab Al Mandeb. The US is leading a coalition stationed in the Red Sea to stop Houthi attacks on commercial shipping. AP
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Senior Iranian officials have held talks with a Houthi delegation amid escalating tension with the West after Tehran's move to send a warship to the Red Sea.

The ship's deployment came after a deadly clash on Sunday in which 10 Houthi rebels were killed by US helicopter fire after they shot at a commercial vessel and American forces.

Iran's Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian met senior Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam on Monday in Tehran and discussed “issues of common interest”.

The meeting also focused on “the peace path and international negotiations, as well as developments in the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, and the necessity of strengthening the steadfastness of the valiant Palestinian resistance”, Mr Abdulsalam said.

News agency Tasnim said on Monday that Iran's Alborz warship had entered the Red Sea, where a US-led maritime coalition has been stationed to stop Houthi attacks on vessels traversing the crucial waterway.

The risks of the Israel-Gaza conflict morphing into a wider regional conflict rose at the weekend after US helicopters repelled an attack on Sunday by the Houthis on a Maersk container vessel in the Red Sea, sinking three Houthi ships and killing 10 militants.

Oil prices jumped 1 per cent on Tuesday, starting the New Year higher as the Red Sea naval clash focused attention on potential Middle East supply disruptions while expectations of a Chinese economic stimulus strengthened the demand outlook in the world's top crude importer.

Mohammed Al Houthi, a senior leader of the rebel group, warned the Netherlands on Tuesday not to be drawn into a battle in the Red Sea. The United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain are all part of the US-led maritime security mission.

“If the Dutch want to work to secure international navigation and prevent the outbreak of wars, they must put pressure on Israel to stop its aggression and lift the siege on two million and one hundred thousand people inside Gaza,” Mr Al Houthi told Dutch television NOS in comments carried by the Yemeni Saba news agency.

Apart from the Houthis, Iran also supports Hamas, the ruling faction in Gaza fighting Israel. Other Tehran-backed groups in the Middle East have launched attacks on US forces in the region and Israel.

A wider conflict could lead to the closure of crucial waterways in the Red Sea and the Strait of Hormuz, forcing ships transporting oil to opt for longer and more expensive routes.

Mr Al Houthi said the rebel group remained defiant despite the latest clash in the Red Sea from the US-led coalition.

“America was unable to do anything today, and it is too incapable of being in another alliance, and the more warships there are in the Red Sea, the easier it will be for our armed forces."

Updated: January 02, 2024, 11:56 AM