The Latest: UN welcomes Saudi move to lift Yemen blockade

The Latest on developments in Yemen (all times local):

9:05 p.m.

The United Nations says that if Saudi Arabia reopens the airport in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, and its Red Sea ports of Hodeida and Salef as the kingdom has indicated it would do, it will be "a very welcome and critically important development."

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York that senior U.N. humanitarian and political officials received information from their Saudi counterparts on Wednesday, indicating a willingness to open the airport and ports "over the next day."

Haq said the U.N. is "monitoring these developments and we're trying to see whether that actually takes place on the ground." He also said the world body has "made clear the tremendous amount of needs on the ground."

He also says: "We're ready to help if the ports are opened."

The Saudi-led coalition fighting Shiite Houthi rebels shut down all land, sea and air access to Yemen earlier this month after the rebels fired a missile that targeted Riyadh.


6:40 p.m.

The U.N. humanitarian chief in Yemen says the closure of the country's main airport and two seaports by a Saudi-led coalition has threatened gains made in containing cholera and the risk of famine in the war-torn country.

Jamie McGoldrick spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

His comments came shortly before the Saudi-led military coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen announced it would reopen Sanaa airport and the port of Hodeida on Thursday for urgent humanitarian aid and U.N. aircraft.

The coalition imposed a blockade Nov. 6, after rebels fired a missile at the Saudi capital.

McGoldrick says 7 million of Yemen's 27 million people rely on food aid.

He says that "at a time of famine and a time of cholera, it's very important" to keep all aid channels open.


5:40 p.m.

The Saudi-led military coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen has announced it will reopen the war-torn country's main international airport in the capital of Sanaa and a vital Red Sea port to give access to humanitarian aid.

Wednesday's announcement says the Sanaa airport and the port of Hodeida will reopen, starting from Thursday.

It's been over two weeks since the Saud-led coalition imposed the closure of all sea, air, and land ports in the Arab world's poorest country, in response to a missile assault by the Shiite rebels that targeted the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The missile was struck down but it was the farthest a projectile by the rebels, also known as Houthis, had penetrated into the kingdom.

The coalition sys the United Nations and international relief groups have demanded the coalition allow full access to hubs in Yemen so that humanitarian aid can reach those that desperately need it.

Aid groups have also warned of worsening conditions for millions of Yemenis who fully depend on the aid.


10:20 a.m.

A New-York based relief group has urged an end to the continuing blockade that serves as a "collective punishment" of Yemenis and risks driving 500 children into malnutrition every week.

The International Rescue Committee on Wednesday said the closure of Yemeni ports by the Saudi-led coalition as part of its fight against Houthi rebels creates "humanitarian misery for millions of Yemenis."

The coalition announced that it's lifting the blockade after initially tightening it following a Houthi missile attack.

"Sanctions and inspections should not be used as weapons of war," the group said in a statement.

The IRC condemned the international community, saying its silence "is a disgrace and is enabling what could be collective punishment."

Each week, the group said, 500 children join hundreds of thousands suffering from malnutrition.