Iran's Yemen envoy dies of Covid after evacuation: ministry

Tehran (AFP) – Iran's envoy to Yemen died of Covid Tuesday despite his evacuation from the rebel-held capital Sanaa in a rare exemption from a Saudi-led air blockade, the foreign ministry said.


Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh blamed the "slow cooperation of certain countries" in facilitating the Saturday evacuation for the death of envoy Hassan Eyrlou.

The diplomat served as ambassador to the rebel-installed administration in Sanaa, which is recognised only by Tehran.

"The ministry announces the death from Covid-19 of martyr Hassan Eyrlou, ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Yemen's National Salvation Government," ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in statement.

"Martyr Eyrlou, who was also wounded in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, fell victim to Covid in the country where he was assigned, because of the slow cooperation of certain countries," Khatibzadeh said, without specifying which ones.

"Unfortunately he returned home to the country in adverse circumstances and despite treatments to improve his health, he died this morning."

Eyrlou was flown out of Sanaa on Saturday on an Iraqi flight, after his rebel hosts secured authorisation from the Saudi-led coalition, which has enforced an air and sea blockade on rebel-held territory since August 2016.

An Iranian spokesman said Eyrlou had already been sick with Covid for several days while Iraqi and Omani mediators organised the exemption.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have been bitter foes for years, taking opposing sides in conflicts from Syria to Yemen.

Riyadh has said that its 2015 intervention in Yemen in support of the beleaguered government was aimed at preventing an Iranian ally taking power on its doorstep.

The conflict has devastated Yemen's healthcare system and triggered what the United Nations has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.