An Iranian aid ship bound for Yemen in defiance of US warnings is reportedly expected to reach port on Thursday.
The vessel, carrying 2500 tonnes of aid including flour, rice, canned food, medical supplies and bottled water, is reportedly in the Gulf of Aden.
But the ship’s mission has been overshadowed by US calls for it to head to a UN emergency relief hub in Djibouti instead of docking in the Yemeni port of Hodeida.
With a five-day humanitarian pause in a Saudi-led bombing campaign against the Iran-backed rebels, who control much of Yemen, due to end later on Sunday, the aid ship has become another bone of contention between Tehran and Riyadh.
A reporter from Tasnim, a news agency associated with Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, reported the vessel had left Omani waters and was in the Gulf of Aden.
A Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday the US was tracking the aid ship, after an Iranian naval commander told state media that warships might escort it to Yemen.
Passengers on the ship include doctors, anti-war activists from the US, France and Germany, and other journalists, according to Tasnim.
The vessel’s captain, Masoud Qazi Mir-Saeed, said that if weather remained fair it should dock in rebel-controlled Hodeida on Thursday.
The Pentagon had urged the ship to divert to Djibouti to prove its cargo was humanitarian.
The dispute raised concerns of a potential confrontation between the US and Iran.
But Iran said on Thursday that it had made all the appropriate arrangements for the aid shipment.
“The required co-ordination has been done with relevant authorities in the UN for docking of the ship carrying Iran’s humanitarian aid for Yemen,” deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said.