Abdel Malek Al Mekhlafi Image Credit: Reuters

New York: Yemen plans to complain to the UN. Security Council over what it says are Iran’s weapon transfers to Al Houthi militia fighting the internationally recognised Yemeni government, the foreign minister said on Saturday.

In an interview with Reuters, Abdel Malek Al Mekhlafi also said he hoped a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire would take effect “early next week.”

Yemen and Saudi Arabia — which intervened in the country in March 2015 to prevent the Al Houthis and forces loyal to ousted Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh from taking over — blame Iran for supplying weapons to the Al Houthis.

“There are new weapons coming from Iran,” Al Mekhlafi said in New York where he was attending the annual UN gathering of world leaders.

“It is impossible to hide that weapons-smuggling is still taking place from Iran. Some of these weapons have been found on the Saudi-Yemeni border and they are Iranian weapons,” he said.

Al Mekhlafi said his government was in the process of filing a complaint to the Security Council, with evidence including documents and pictures.

UN-sponsored talks to try to end 18 months of fighting that has killed at least 10,000 people collapsed last month.

The foreign minister said President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi had met with US and UN officials this week and had agreed in principle to a 72-hour ceasefire.

“He (Hadi) asked that the ceasefire be taken advantage of by lifting the unjust siege of Taiz and for food to enter simultaneously,” Al Mekhlafi said, referring to a city in the country’s highlands. The government was waiting for the UN

envoy to speak with the Al Houthi side to secure those guarantees, he added.

Asked about international criticism over the civilian casualties caused by the Saudi-led coalition, Al Mekhlafi said the issue was politicised and exaggerated.

“We do not say that there are no victims in this war. This is a war, it’s not a war of angels, it’s a war of people. There are many victims and there are mistakes and this is normal,” he said, adding that less attention was given to attacks against civilians by the Al Houthi side.

Saudi Arabia has said it is committed to international humanitarian law.

Al Mekhlafi defended the Yemeni president’s move to appoint a new central bank governor and move the bank’s headquarters to Aden, where Hadi’s government is based.

“This was a necessary step ... Even our allies, and the international institutions, have reached the conclusion that it was the necessary last step to save the Yemeni economy,” he said.

He said the central bank in Al Houthi-controlled Sana’a was down to its last $700 million (Dh2.57 billion) in foreign reserves and there was no longer any local currency liquidity. The bank also had not paid the interest on external debt since May, or public sector salaries for the last two months.

The government in Aden has accused the Al Houthis of squandering some $4 billion on the war effort from central bank reserves.

Al Mekhlafi said the government had made clear to the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and American and British officials that the new central bank would pay public sector salaries for everyone, including those in areas under Al Houthi control. He said the bank’s new administration was in the process of agreeing with a Russian company to print additional Yemeni notes.