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Oppenheim to Asharq Al-Awsat: Our Problem Isn’t Houthis, It’s Their Destructive Behavior

Oppenheim to Asharq Al-Awsat: Our Problem Isn’t Houthis, It’s Their Destructive Behavior

Sunday, 27 November, 2022 - 07:15
UK Ambassador to Yemen Richard Oppenheim

The UK ambassador to Yemen, Richard Oppenheim, acknowledged that he has direct communication channels with the Houthis and confirmed that he had dined with the group’s spokesman, Mohammed Abdulsalam, in Muscat three months ago, as did his predecessor Michael Aron.


In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Oppenheim affirmed that the problem with Houthis is in their destructive behavior, not in them being a Yemeni group or participating in government. He reiterated the UK’s condemnation of their recent attacks on oil ports, describing them as “terrorist attacks.”


While expressing concerns about consequences of the internationally recognized government designating Houthis as a “terrorist group,” he expressed his hope that the group would participate in Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council (PLC).


Oppenheim also stressed the importance of maintaining the calm and supporting the efforts of the UN envoy to reach a lasting peace.


The British diplomat explained his country’s views on many Yemeni files, including employee salaries, resource distribution, the performance of the PLC, and the southern issue.


He also spoke about the role of the UN envoy and what priorities Yemenis should undertake.


- Terrorist Attacks


Without ambiguity, Oppenheim described recent Houthi aggressions as terrorist attacks. He asserted that his country’s stance was firm on the Houthis’ latest three attacks on oil infrastructure in Yemen. These assaults, according to the ambassador, are terrorist in nature.


Regarding the government’s response to these attacks by blacklisting Houthi militias as a terrorist group, Oppenheim reminds all parties that the space for dialogue needs protection.


The ambassador warned that the Houthi terrorist designation by the government may have ramifications on humanitarian access.


Nevertheless, Oppenheim recalls how the Royal Navy’s HMS Montrose seized Iranian weapon-laden vessels that were en route to deliver to Houthis in Yemen.


Participating in Yemen’s Governance


Oppenheim did not hide his hopes for Houthis to come around and participate in Yemen’s PLC. He reiterated the UK’s support for PLC Chairman Rashad al-Alimi and the council’s remaining members.


According to the ambassador, the PLC brings together all of Yemen’s parties, except the Houthis.


Oppenheim noted that the PLC’s strength, unity, and stability, is vital for the current phase Yemen is experiencing.


He moved on to stress that Houthis, who continue to refuse sharing power in Yemen, do not enjoy international relations. The diplomat explained that what Houthis have are ties with some international representatives.


Oppenheim asserted that the Houthi government remains unrecognized.


In his opinion, Oppenheim believes that the real question in Yemen today is: How can parties share power and resources found in the country?


For this reason, Oppenheim notes that the question of salaries of public workers remains crucial and can be a prelude for a solution to the issue at hand.


He, however, acknowledged that the matter is up to Yemenis to decide how they want to manage the situation. Oppenheim also said that Yemenis must decide on what political structures might work in a future political settlement.


- PLC


PLC members have proven that they can work together, even when they do not agree on everything, affirmed Oppenheim.


As for whether disputes arise among PLC members, the British ambassador affirmed that they do, but continued to emphasize that coalition governments everywhere suffer from differences.


In fact, even within political parties there is often conflict in any country on various issues, but they still work together, the ambassador added.


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