British PM May urges Saudi Arabia to avert Yemen ‘catastrophe’

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Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May waits for the result of the vote in her constituency at the count centre for the general election in Maidenhead, June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May has implored Saudi leaders to ease a blockade on war-torn Yemen to “avert a humanitarian catastrophe”, her office said on Thursday, echoing urgent appeals from the United Nations.
A Saudi-led coalition battling Houthi rebels has only partially lifted a crippling aid blockade on Yemen, which was imposed earlier this month in response to a missile fired by the Houthis that was intercepted near Riyadh airport.
May met both Saudi King Salman and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman late on Wednesday on the second leg of her Middle East tour, with the worsening crisis in Yemen topping her agenda.
“The prime minister made clear that the flow of commercial supplies on which the country (Yemen) depends must be resumed if we are to avert a humanitarian catastrophe,” May’s office said. “They agreed that steps needed to be taken as a matter of urgency to address this.”
Saudi Arabia is Britain’s largest trading partner in the Middle East, and London has signed off on more than $4.4 billion worth of arms sales to Riyadh since March 2015.
That was the month that Riyadh launched its intervention against the Yemeni rebels who still control the capital Sanaa and much of the north of the country.
The war has since killed around 8,600 people, while a further 2,000 have died of cholera.
The United Nations on Monday urged the Saudi-led coalition to do “much more” to ease the blockade impeding shipments of aid and fully reopen the key rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida.
The coalition has allowed some supplies to reach rebel-held Sanaa and the Saleef Red Sea port, also in the Huthis’ hands.
But little aid has entered through Hodeida, the main conduit for UN-supervised deliveries of food and medicine.– Agencies

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