TEHERAN－Iran blamed Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for foot-dragging that it said contributed to delays that led to the death of its envoy to Yemen from COVID-19.
Attending ambassador Hassan Irloo’s funeral, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said his ministry had tried to quickly obtain permission from Riyadh to evacuate Irloo by plane after he was infected with the virus, but “the Saudi side was unfortunately very late in making a decision in this regard and some executive bodies of Saudi Arabia dragged their feet”.
Yemen’s airspace, including the Sanaa airport, as well as its land and sea borders, have been under the control of the Saudi-led coalition, which has intervened in the Yemeni war since 2015 after the Houthis took over the capital Sanaa and much of Yemen’s northern part.
“We will formally lodge a protest in accordance with international conventions, and at the same time, we hope that Yemen will be able to get out of this war and severe humanitarian siege as soon as possible through a political solution,”Abdollahian was quoted by Iran’s Press TV as saying.
Irloo was transferred to Teheran in an Iraqi plane on Sunday, after Iraq mediated between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The coalition said on Wednesday that it had helped to get Iran’s sick ambassador out of the country before he died, rejecting Teheran’s accusation that the envoy’s evacuation had been delayed.
It said it began facilitating Irloo’s transfer from Sanaa on humanitarian grounds, in light of mediation from Oman and Iraq, within 48 hours of being informed of his health condition.
Saudi Arabia and Iran－the region’s Sunni Muslim and Shiite powerhouses－are bitter rivals, but they launched talks this year as global powers try to salvage a nuclear pact with Iran and United Nations efforts to end the Yemeni war stalled.
Yemen has been mired in a civil war since late 2014, when Iran-backed Houthi militants seized control of much of the country’s north and forced the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi out of Sanaa.
On Tuesday, UN aid flights into Sanaa were halted by airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition, said an airport official.
Due to coalition airstrikes targeting Houthi militants, “the airport is no longer able to receive aircraft operated by the United Nations or international humanitarian organizations”, the official said.
Flights into Sanaa airport have been largely halted by a Saudi-led blockade since August 2016, but there have been exemptions for aid flights that are a key lifeline for the population.
On Monday evening, the coalition said it had carried out “a limited number of precision strikes on legitimate military targets in Sanaa international airport”.