UNITED NATIONS, July 15 (Xinhua) -- UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock on Wednesday warned against any possible disruption of the deployment of a UN technical team to inspect a derelict oil tanker off the Yemeni coast.
Lowcock welcomed the authorization of the UN mission by Houthi rebels, who control this area. But he expressed concern that the rebels might suddenly change their minds, like what happened before.
"Last week, we received encouraging news. Ansar Allah officials confirmed to the United Nations in writing that they are ready to authorize the UN mission to the Safer (oil tanker). They have also communicated their intention to issue entry permits for mission personnel. I welcome this announcement," said Lowcock, using the official name of the Houthi militia. "We have, of course, been here before. In August 2019, we received similar assurances and, on that basis, deployed the UN team and equipment to Djibouti at significant expense. The Ansar Allah authorities canceled that mission the night before departure."
The United Nations remains ready to assist this time. The UN team can deploy within three weeks of receiving all the necessary permits, said Lowcock in a briefing to the Security Council.
The United Nations is in touch with the government of Yemen for their approvals. On Tuesday, the United Nations also submitted an official request to the Ansar Allah authorities, which includes details on the mission plan, the personnel and the technical equipment, he said. "We hope these requests and other logistical arrangements will be quickly approved, without preconditions."
The Ansar Allah authorities have an important opportunity to take steps that will spare millions of their fellow citizens from yet another tragedy, he said.
The tanker had served as a floating oil storage and offloading vessel moored in the Red Sea before most of the crew deserted it after Houthi rebels took over the area about five years ago.
On May 27, 2020, seawater began leaking into the Safer engine room. Fortunately, the engine room leak was relatively small, and divers from the Safer corporation were able to contain it. But the fix they applied is only temporary, and it is impossible to say how long it might hold, said Lowcock.
The tanker is carrying 1.1 million barrels of crude oil. Enditem