Saudis Told Not to Block Yemen-Bound Aid Ship

Saudis Told Not to Block  Yemen-Bound Aid Ship Saudis Told Not to Block  Yemen-Bound Aid Ship

The deputy chairman of the General Staff of the Armed Forces advised the Saudi-led coalition and its allies to avoid any move to intercept a Yemen-bound Iranian cargo ship, loaded with humanitarian supplies.

“(The US-backed coalition) had better let the Islamic Republic of Iran and other countries deliver their humanitarian aid to the oppressed Yemeni people,” Lieutenant General Massoud Jazayeri was quoted by Fars news agency as saying on Tuesday, asking Saudi Arabia to stop “shedding the blood of Muslims.” Asked about Iran’s possible reaction if Saudi Arabia blocked the Iranian vessel, Jazayeri said, “In that case, they should await Iran’s (serious) action.”

The Iran Shahed ship left on Monday for the Yemeni port Hodaida, which is under control of Houthi fighters. News of the cargo ship’s movement came just hours before the start of a five-day ceasefire to allow the shipment of food and medicine to the blockaded country, which aid groups warn faces a humanitarian catastrophe. US officials demanded on Tuesday that the vessel change course and head to Djibouti where the United Nations is setting up a supply hub to oversee humanitarian deliveries.

“If the Iranians follow UN protocol, move the ship to a port in Djibouti, allow the humanitarian cargo they claim is on the ship to be distributed through UN channels, then they will have done the right thing in this case,” Reuters quoted Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren as saying.

According to AFP, Warren claimed that  the ship is suspected to be carrying weapons, saying, “If the Iranians are planning some sort of stunt in the region, they know as well as we do that it would be unhelpful and in fact could potentially threaten the ceasefire (in Yemen) that has been so painstakingly brought about.”

However, a US defense official told CNN that the current intelligence indicates there are no weapons on board the Iranian ship, but the concern continues to center around Iranian government statements that its warships will escort the relief vessel. In comments on the issue, the foreign ministry spokesperson said the inspection of the Iran Shahed by any forces from the countries involved in Yemen’s war is out of question. “The countries engaged in the war will not be allowed access to the vessel, which is carrying humanitarian relief, for inspection,” Marzieh Afkham was quoted by IRIB news as saying on Wednesday.

Fars news agency said the ship, which has seven activists from the United States and Europe, including from Germany, among those on board, is expected to dock in Hodaida in about six days.