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Washington ‘Continues’ to Consider Classifying ‘Houthi Entities’ on Terrorist Lists

Washington ‘Continues’ to Consider Classifying ‘Houthi Entities’ on Terrorist Lists

Lenderking to Asharq Al-Awsat: Houthi Attacks Kill Civilians, Including Children, in Marib
Friday, 5 November, 2021 - 05:45
US Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking. Photo: US State Department

Over the course of nine months, Tim Lenderking, the US special envoy to Yemen, has engaged in meetings and visits to the Arab region more than 13 times, in order to "bring peace" and end the conflict in the country, and to activate the political dialogue between the Yemeni parties. However, the US efforts, "publicly harmonious" with the United Nations, did not stop the shooting definitively, nor did they end the seven-year conflict in the country.


Asharq Al-Awsat interviewed the American envoy and tried to find out what the US official holds "tools" for bringing peace, especially since he is not new to the region, as he counted five achievements he believes he has been able to achieve since his appointment last February.


First, he had an intensive engagement with the parties to the conflict. Second, creating an international consensus on the issue, third, classifying many Houthi leaders and their financial networks on sanctions lists. Fourth, raising the level of humanitarian aid, and finally supporting the UN envoy. Here is the text of the interview:


What have you achieved during +10 trips to the region since becoming SE?


First, I have been intensively engaged with the UN Special Envoy and Yemeni and regional leaders to advance a durable resolution that improves the lives of Yemenis and creates the space for them to collectively determine their own future. This has translated into important building blocks to pave the way for peace in Yemen. Together, we have helped build an unprecedented international and regional consensus on the need for an immediate, comprehensive ceasefire and political resolution. The Republic of Yemen Government and Saudi Arabia have announced their support for a ceasefire and resumption of political talks. Oman is also playing a critical and proactive regional role.


Second, the United States has designated several Houthi leaders and financial networks.


These are having a real impact on Houthi operations, and we will continue to pursue designations of individuals and entities that foster instability and commit atrocities against civilians.


Third, the United States has taken vital steps to ease the humanitarian situation. The States remains one of the largest single donors to the humanitarian response. We have provided nearly $4 billion to alleviate the suffering of the people of Yemen since the crisis began almost seven years ago. US advocacy with other donors has also helped make Yemen one of the best-funded UN appeals. However, we realize that much more is still needed given the level of suffering.


Fourth, we also recognize that humanitarian assistance alone is not enough- we must also address the economic drivers of the crisis. The United States is also working with other partners to provide economic support and advance critical reforms needed to stabilize the Yemeni economy. This has included advocacy on the fuel crisis, where we have encouraged the Republic of Yemen government to clear fuel ships waiting outside Hodeidah port, almost eliminating the backlog of ships. However, a more durable resolution is needed that also addressees Houthi price manipulation and stockpiling of fuel.


Fifth, we have worked closely with UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg and other international partners to encourage a new, more inclusive UN-led peace process.


Unfortunately, despite all these steps, the Houthis continue to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis and obstruct peace. It will take the international community’s joint efforts to end this conflict, combined with efforts to amplify the voices of the vast majority of Yemenis who are demanding peace. My team and I are dedicated to and believe in this mission. Peace is possible.


What is your view of the Houthis’ engagement? Do you believe they really want peace?


While at times engaging constructively, the Houthis have not shown a genuine commitment to a peace process. The United States condemns all Houthi attacks. “Civilians will suffer as long as the brutal Houthi military offensives continue,” said Secretary (Antony) Blinken on Oct 4. We are not alone. On October 22, the UNSC members issued a joint statement calling for an immediate nationwide ceasefire and condemning the Houthis for their continuous attacks in Yemen and against Saudi Arabia.


Houthi attacks on Marib are killing civilians, including small children, and putting over one million internally displaced Yemenis at grave risk. Recent Houthi actions in Abdiyah are the latest example of the Houthis’ flagrant disregard for civilian protection.


Through my engagements with the people of Yemen, I continuously hear Yemenis want peace. The Houthis cannot ignore the voices of the people calling for a stop to this violence.


This is a critical moment for the Houthis to demonstrate they truly want peace, security, stability and a prosperous future for the people of Yemen.


Was removing Houthis from the FTO list a mistake?


The United States revoked the terrorism designations of Ansarallah, sometimes referred to as the Houthis, as a group in order to avoid unintended negative humanitarian consequences.


Ninety percent of essential commodities in Yemen are imported by private businesses. Out of an abundance of caution, these businesses may have engaged in overcompliance in the face of the designations, which could have significantly impacted such imports into Yemen. The people would have suffered even more without such imports.


We continue to consider designations of Houthi individuals and entities and others financing instability in Yemen where appropriate, including against those committing atrocities against civilians.


The State Department condemned the Houthis over and over again, but the Houthis have ignored those calls for peace. What are you going to do about this issue?


As previously stated, it will take the international community’s combined efforts to end this conflict. We have helped build a more united international front against this war and together we will continue to help carve out space for the people to decide their future.


Yemenis deserve a better alternative to repression and constant conflict. The role of the international community is to help amplify their voices, their call for peace.


We will prioritize coordinating with the international community to advance a durable resolution that improves the lives of Yemenis.


Do you think the UN’s peace initiative is working? If so, how?


The United States strongly supports the efforts of new UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, to develop a roadmap for a new, more inclusive UN-led peace process. He has been traveling and engaging with various parties, hearing diverse perspective to inform this process and we look forward to hearing more about his roadmap soon.


What is the realistic solution for the Yemeni conflict in your opinion? And why?


Resolving this conflict will take time. As noted above, we have several building blocks already in place. It will take the international community’s combined efforts and determination to end this conflict. Peace in Yemen may not be easy, but we know it is possible.


Iran has a negative influence on the Houthis. What can be done to shift that impact to positive? Do you think the talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran will reflect positively?


The United States supports dialogue among the countries in the region in the interest of security and stability.


In general, we have not seen Iran play any sort of positive role in Yemen, and we have long said that if Iran wants to show it can be a responsible actor, it should start by ending its meddling in the conflict in Yemen.


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