Saudi Arabia suspends Bab el Mandeb oil shipments after Houthi attack on tankers

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said the attack happened in international waters west of Yemen’s Port of Hodeidah.
Thursday 26/07/2018
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih attends a session of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia. (Reuters)
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih attends a session of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia. (Reuters)

LONDON - Saudi Arabia suspended oil shipments through the Bab el Mandeb Strait between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa after Iran-allied Houthi rebels attacked two oil tankers.

A Saudi-led coalition is at war with the Houthis in Yemen to restore the internationally recognised government.

Two very large Saudi crude carrier were attacked on July 25, with one sustaining minimal damage, said Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih.

Falih said the attack led Saudi officials to "temporarily and immediately" suspend oil shipments through the Bab el Mandeb Strait until "navigation through the strait becomes safe," the Saudi Okaz newspaper reported.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said the attack happened in international waters west of Yemen’s Port of Hodeidah, where major fighting recently took place. The coalition halted an offensive on Hodeidah July 1 to allow the United Nations to work on a political solution.

The government and the Saudi-led coalition backing it have been demanding that the Houthis completely withdraw from Hodeidah.

"This terrorist attack is a dangerous threat to the freedom of navigation and international trade in the Red Sea and Bab el Mandeb Strait, which might result in environmental and economic losses," Malki said in a statement.

"The continuation of such attempts proves the real threat of this militia and the ones supporting it to regional and international security. The Port of Hodeidah is still the starting point of terrorist attacks."

The Houthis’ media wing in Lebanon said the militia had attacked a Saudi warship but didn’t provide evidence or details.

"This comes after the [Houthi] navy announced the targeting off the western coast [of Yemen] of the Saudi Dammam warship, which is the latest in a series of warships targeted by the naval force," Houthi-run Al Masirah television said on its website.

Houthi leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi said the group’s navy had the capacity to reach the high seas and Saudi ports.

“We were taking into consideration to keep the navigation through Bab el Mandeb safe and to not provide the aggression forces an excuse that the waterway is under threat,” al-Houthi said in a post on Twitter.

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths said talks between the country's warring parties would resume in late August after Eid al-Adha.

Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in London reported that Houthi leaders met with Griffiths in Riyadh. It quoted Yemeni Sheikh Abdulkhaleq Bishr as saying the meeting was to send a "message to the international community about how the people of Saada have been oppressed and that they have a right to political representation."

"The roots of Yemen's problem began in Saada and if the area's problem is not taken into consideration in a political solution, then Yemen's problem will not end and will return once again in another form," he said.