Saudi offers Yemen fuel aid as economy sags

2 min

Aden (AFP)

A Saudi oil tanker carrying the first batch of petroleum products worth $60 million arrived at Yemen's Aden port Monday, to help power electricity stations and prop up the war-torn country's sagging economy, officials said.

The aid, meant to ease crippling power cuts, marks the latest economic assistance offered by the kingdom as Yemen –- already on the brink of famine -- reels from an economic downturn that has left many unable to afford food staples.

"A Saudi tanker reached Aden carrying the first instalment of oil derivatives such as diesel and mazut, worth $60 million," a Saudi government statement said.

"They are meant to be supplied to power stations in provinces liberated by the Yemeni government."

Yemen's central bank governor Mohamed Zemam told AFP the monthly aid will help the struggling government divert an average of $50 million per month that it currently spends on electricity to sectors such as healthcare and education.

The assistance comes after Saudi Arabia deposited $200 million in Yemen's central bank earlier this month to help stem a slide in the riyal.

The oil-rich kingdom, which leads a coalition supporting the beleaguered government in its fight against Shiite Huthi rebels, already deposited $2 billion in the central bank in January to support the Yemeni currency.

The riyal has lost more than two-thirds of its value against the dollar since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government's fight against Yemen's Huthi rebels.

UN-backed efforts to jumpstart peace talks in Yemen have so far failed to yield results.

Overseeing the fuel aid delivery in Aden on Monday, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed al-Jaber, said: "Development of Yemen can't wait for the Huthi militias to accept political solutions."

The UN, which categorises Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, has warned that 14 million people now face a serious threat of famine.

Since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in the conflict, nearly 10,000 civilians have been killed, according to the World Health Organization.

Other rights groups estimate the toll could be five times higher.