UN must take ‘firm position’ on Houthi ship seizure, says UAE envoy

Emirati diplomats addressed Yemen’s war for the first time since joining the Security Council earlier this month

The United Nations headquarters building in Manhattan. AFP

The UAE’s ambassador to the UN Lana Nusseibeh on Wednesday urged the UN Security Council to take a "firm position" against a rebel group's seizure of an Emirati-flagged cargo vessel and other dangerous acts off the coast of Yemen.

Ms Nusseibeh said the Houthi movement committed an “act of piracy” when it hijacked the Rawabi in waters off the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, which is held by the armed group and is a vital hub for aid deliveries.

“The Houthis have repeatedly used explosives-laden speedboats and sea mines to threaten the freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and the Bab Al Mandeb Strait,” Ms Nusseibeh told the 15-nation body.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the Houthi act of piracy against the civilian cargo vessel Rawabi off the port of Hodeidah.”

Ms Nusseibeh said the incident was a “dangerous escalation against the safety of maritime navigation” that necessitated the “adoption of a firm position by the Security Council”.

She also urged the Houthis to answer a UN request to inspect the Red Sea ports around Hodeidah, amid claims that the war-ravaged city was being used for military purposes in violation of a 2018 agreement.

Ms Nusseibeh's comments marked the first time the UAE had addressed the UN council on Yemen since taking its two-year seat on the body on January 1. She wrote to the council president about the seizure last week.

Other diplomats also condemned the vessel capture. The US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged the Houthi rebel movement to “immediately release the ship and its crew unharmed”.

A spokesman for the Houthi rebels did not immediately respond to The National’s request for comment.

The council can pass legally binding resolutions and release agreed statements, which are not binding. It has previously criticised acts by the Houthis, but it was unclear if it would take action over the Rawabi seizure.

Yemen has been mired in violence since the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from the capital Sanaa in late 2014, saying they were fighting corruption. A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened the following year to restore the government.

The war has spawned a humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical shortages.

Updated: January 12th 2022, 6:09 PM