The United Nations on Monday rejected a call by the Arab coalition for the key port of Hudaydah to be placed under its supervision.
The coalition made the appeal following an attack on a boat carrying Somali refugees off the coast of Yemen that killed 42 people, and as the country faced famine.
UN spokesman Farhan Haq said the warring sides in Yemen have a responsibility to protect civilian infrastructure and civilians.
“These are not obligations they can shift to others,” Haq said.
Houthi militias fighting the Yemeni government control Hodeida, which is a key transit point for desperately needed imports.
The coalition said in a statement Sunday that it was not responsible for the attack on the refugee boat in the area of Hudaydah and called for the port to be “placed immediately under United Nations supervision.”
Hudaydah serves 70 percent of the country’s population affected by a severe food crisis in Yemen, which is almost entirely dependent on imports of food and other commodities.
“The humanitarian community delivers assistance in Yemen solely based on needs and not on political considerations, and will continue to do so through all available means,” added Haq.
About 7.3 million people in Yemen are in dire need of food aid in the largest food insecurity emergency in the world, according to the United Nations.
However, Arab coalition spokesperson Ahmed Asiri said the UN must supervise the management of ports so they are not exploited to carry out attacks.
Placing Hudaydah under UN supervision would “facilitate the flow of humanitarian supplies to the Yemeni people, while at the same time ending the use of the port for weapons smuggling and people trafficking,” said the coalition statement.
The Hudaydah port is one of the most important ports in Yemen and it is the second biggest port after the Aden port. It is distinguished for its strategic position as it is close to global navigational passages, in addition to being close to Bab al-Mandeb Strait.
Its area is 315,000 square meters and its maximum capacity is 9 million tons. It has ten berths to load and unload oil tankers and other petroleum derivatives. There are 12 warehouses in the port with a total area of 37,000 square meters.