A Reuters report states movement of weapons happens in Kuwaiti waters and in nearby international shipping lanes. Image Credit: REUTERS

Dubai: Kuwait on Wednesday denied a Reuters report that Iran was using the Gulf Arab state’s waters to smuggle weapons and equipment to Al Houthi forces in Yemen.

“The State of Kuwait refuted news by the Reuters news agency regarding Iran’s exploitation of Kuwaiti waters to deliver arms and military assistance to Al Houthis in Yemen,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.

“A source at the ministry said that the country’s waters were under the total control of the Kuwaiti navy and coastguard, adding that there were no reports of suspicious marine movements or activities,” said the statement, carried by the official Kuwait News Agency.

The ministry urged international media to investigate such matters “more thoroughly”.

On Tuesday, Reuters cited sources familiar with the matter as saying that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards had begun using a new route across the Gulf to funnel covert arms shipments to their Al Houthi allies in Yemen’s civil war.

In March, regional and Western sources told Reuters Iran was shipping weapons and military advisers to Al Houthis either directly to Yemen or via Somalia.

This route however risked contact with international naval vessels on patrol in the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.

For the last six months, Western and Iranian sources say the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has begun using waters further up the Gulf between Kuwait and Iran as it looks for new ways to beat an embargo on arms shipments to Al Houthi militants.

Using this new route, Iranian ships were transferring equipment to smaller vessels at the northern end of the Gulf, where they face less scrutiny. The transhipments take place in Kuwaiti waters and in nearby international shipping lanes, the sources said.

A Saudi-led Arab coalition entered the Yemen conflict in 2015 after an Al Houthi coup against the legitimate government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Hadi came to power in early 2012 after massive Arab Spring protests ousted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh who ruled Yemen for over 30 years.

He was forced to decamp to the city of Aden after escaping an Al Houthi-imposed house arrest after the rebels took over the government in a coup in 2014.

Since then, Hadi moved government headquarters to Aden from where he has led an offensive to liberate Al Houthi-occupied territories.

With help from the Saudi-led Arab coalition, it has achieved widespread gains in many provinces, but Al Houthi’s still control the capital, Sana’a, and most northern provinces including Hodeidah, Ibb, Mahweet, Yareem, Amran, Baydha and Hajja.