Yemen’s Houthi movement has agreed to provide the United Nations access to a stranded oil tanker that risks causing an environmental disaster off the coast of the war-divided country, two U.N. sources familiar with the matter said.
The U.N. earlier this week said it was extremely concerned after water entered the engine room of Safer tanker, which carries 1.1 million barrels of crude oil and has been stranded off the Red Sea oil terminal of Ras Issa for over five years.
The sources said that the Iran-aligned Houthi group, which controls the port, sent a letter approving the deployment of a U.N. technical team to the tanker.
The United Nations is also discussing with Yemen’s warring parties about arranging the sale of the crude and dividing proceeds between Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and the Houthi group that ousted it from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014.
The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the Safer tanker issue which has been mired in disputes over control of ports and revenues.
Yemen’s oil output has collapsed since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Houthis, who control Sanaa and most big urban centres including the main Red Sea port of Hodeidah. The Saudi-backed government holds eastern and southern areas where Yemen’s oil-and-gas fields are located.
The war has killed more than 100,000 people and caused what the U.N. describes as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
The United Nations recently launched virtual talks among the parties to agree a permanent ceasefire and confidence-building steps to restart peace negotiations.
But discussions have been complicated by a surge in violence since late May when a temporary truce prompted by the coronavirus pandemic expired.