Iran challenged Saudi Arabia’s control of Yemeni waters and declared that it will not allow Saudi-led forces to inspect or block an Iranian cargo ship said to be carrying aid bound for Yemen which is being escorted by Iran’s navy, Reuters has reported.
"Permission to inspect the ship carrying humanitarian aid from Iran will not be given to countries participating in the Yemen conflict," Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham was quoted on Wednesday as saying by the Tasnim news agency.
In Washington, US Army Col. Steve Warren said the US was monitoring the cargo ship and he warned that it would not be helpful if Iran is “planning some sort of stunt.”
He said using Iranian warships to accompany the ship is not necessary and Iran should just send the cargo vessel to Djibouti, where humanitarian efforts for Yemen are being coordinated.
“The Iranians have stated that this is humanitarian aid,” Warren said.
“If that is the case, then we certainly encourage the Iranians to deliver that humanitarian aid to the United Nations humanitarian aid distribution hub, which has been established in Djibouti.”
“This will allow the aid to be rapidly and efficiently distributed to those in Yemen who require it,” he added.
Some six US warships are already in the region around Yemen, including in the Gulf of Aden.
State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke confirmed the United States was “certainly tracking this convoy closely.”
“We would discourage any provocative actions,” he added
The US and other Western countries alongside Gulf nations have accused Iran of militarily backing Houthi militias. Both the Houthis and Iran deny the claims.
As a cease-fire between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis went into effect, Iran says the ship, which departed Monday, is carrying food, medicine, tents and blankets, as well as reporters, rescue workers and peace activists.
Iran says the ship is expected to arrive at Yemen's port city of Hodeida next week. Iran's navy said Tuesday it will protect the ship along the voyage.
According to AP, Iranian Armed Forces General Massoud Jazzayeri warned that “any attack on the Iranian Red Crescent aid ship will spark war in the region. And this fire may not be put out or brought under control.”