David Lerman and Kambiz Foroohar
(Bloomberg) — Two Iranian warships have linked up with a cargo vessel that Iran says is delivering humanitarian aid to Yemen, the U.S. military said.
The ships joined up late on Monday and are now about halfway down the coast of Yemen, Army Colonel Steve Warren told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday. He said the U.S. is monitoring their progress “every step of the way” and isn’t “overly concerned.”
The cargo vessel is due to dock at Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeidah on May 21, according to Iranian state television. Warren said that it should instead head to Djibouti, across the Gulf of Aden, where there’s a United Nations-run hub for aid distribution to Yemen.
The UN’s Yemen envoy has been told by the the Iranian government that the aid will be delivered to the facility in Djibouti, according to a UN official who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.
The UN stepped up its humanitarian efforts in the war-torn nation last week, as Saudi Arabia implemented a five-day pause in its bombing campaign against Shiite rebels. The airstrikes resumed this week.
Landing the shipment in Yemen would be a direct challenge to Saudi Arabia’s blockade of the country’s ports, and has the potential to further escalate tensions in a region that adjoins some of the world’s biggest oilfields and key maritime transport routes.
Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition carrying out airstrikes against the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen and accuses Iran, its main regional rival, of supporting the uprising. Iran has condemned the Saudi military intervention and says it won’t permit an inspection of the cargo ship by a country that’s part of the war.
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