Top UN body condemns Houthi seizure of UAE-flagged vessel

Rebels must return ship and its detained crew members, UN Security Council says

A handout frame grab from a video made available by the Houthi movement shows the 'Rawabi', which the UAE says was carrying a field hospital and that its crew of 11 included seamen. EPA
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The UN Security Council on Friday condemned the seizure of a UAE-flagged cargo vessel by Yemen’s Houthis and called on the rebel group to release the ship and its detained crew members.

Members of the Iran-aligned movement on January 2 seized the cargo vessel Rawabi in waters off the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, a vital hub for aid deliveries to war-ravaged Yemen that is held by the Houthis.

The UAE says the vessel was carrying a field hospital and that its crew of 11 included seamen from India, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines.

The UN council “condemned the Houthi seizure and detention of the UAE-flagged vessel … off the coast of Yemen”, the statement said.

“They demanded the immediate release of the vessel and its crew and underscored the necessity of ensuring the crew’s safety and well-being until their release.”

The 15-nation body described an “increasing number of incidents off the coast of Yemen, including attacks on civilian and commercial ships” leading to a “risk to the maritime security of vessels”.

The council also urged rebel, pro-government and Saudi-Arabia led coalition forces fighting in Yemen to “de-escalate” the intensifying conflict in Yemen and “engage constructively” with a UN-led peace process.

A spokesman for the Houthis did not immediately respond to The National's request for comment.

The UAE joined the UN’s top body for a two-year term beginning on January 1, meaning it can take part in meetings, vote on resolutions and help draft official statements.

Addressing the council on Wednesday, the UAE ambassador to the UN, Lana Nusseibeh, urged members to take a “firm position” against the seizure of the 68-metre vessel.

Yemen has been mired in violence since the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from the capital Sanaa in late 2014, claiming they were taking action against 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 14, 2022, 5:10 PM