Iran’s top diplomat in Yemen dies of COVID-19

Iranian foreign ministry says Hassan Irloo was transferred to Tehran in a bad state ‘due to the late cooperation of some countries’.

Hassan Irloo had been appointed last year as Iran's envoy to the Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen [File: Yahya Arhab/ EPA-EFE/EPA]

Tehran, Iran – Iran’s top diplomat in Yemen, Hassan Irloo, has passed away due to COVID-19, days after being flown to Tehran for treatment, officials said.

Irloo, 63, was named last year as Iran’s ambassador to the areas of the war-torn country controlled by the Houthi rebels, which for nearly seven years have been fighting a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia in support of Yemen’s internationally recognised government.

The envoy, who was allegedly a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was transferred to the Iranian capital on Saturday after Iraq and others intervened so Saudi Arabia – which holds a blockade over Yemeni airspace – would allow his transfer by aeroplane.

In a statement on Tuesday, Iran’s foreign ministry said Irloo succumbed to COVID-19 after being transferred to the country in a bad state “due to the late cooperation of some countries”.

An earlier report by the Wall Street Journal newspaper, citing regional officials, said Riyadh had asked the Houthis to release a number of Saudi prisoners held by the group in exchange for allowing Irloo’s transfer.

Iran’s foreign ministry said Irloo was a veteran of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and had sustained injuries from chemical weapons used by Saddam Hussein’s forces.

Saudi Arabia led a military campaign in early 2015 against the Houthis, but the rebels remain in control of the capital, Sanaa, and much of the country’s northern territories.

The Yemeni people are still suffering as a substantial humanitarian crisis caused by the long-running war continues, but efforts to put an end to the fighting have failed.

Saudi and United States officials claim Iran has provided the Houthis with ballistic missiles, drones, training and advisers, an accusation which Tehran denies.

Regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia have held several rounds of direct talks this year hosted by Iraq in an effort to reduce tensions, but no breakthroughs have happened so far.

Source: Al Jazeera