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A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen to support the internationally recognised government in March 2015 after the Huthis captured the capital, Sanaa, the previous year. On Friday the UN Security Council demanded the "immediate release" of the Rwabee and its crew.

It stressed "the importance of freedom of navigation in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea", a strategic route for international shipping. It also called on "all parties to de-escalate the situation in Yemen," including by working with the UN's special envoy to return to the negotiating table.

But Azzi, quoted by the Huthis' Al-Masirah television, accused the UN of siding with "murderers who violate international laws". The Rwabee "belongs to a country participating in the aggression against our people and at war with Yemen, and entered (Yemeni) territorial waters unlawfully", he said.

The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition which has described the seizing of the Rwabee as an act of "piracy".

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