Yemen remains priority for US, Houthis need to talk to govt: Lenderking

A senior US diplomat said Wednesday that Yemen remains a priority for the Biden administration as he urged the Iran-backed Houthis to speak to the internationally recognized Yemeni government about a path forward to the yearslong war.

US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking said the US remained optimistic about the progress for further progress toward peace, but he insisted that the critical decisions rest with the fighting parties.

Lenderking has made over 30 trips to the Middle East since he was appointed over two years ago.

“Yemenis must have the difficult conversations with one another. We know that a settlement will only be durable if it incorporates the perspectives and addresses the concerns of a wide range of Yemenis,” Lenderking said in a call with reporters.

He added: “That is why we and others in the international community are urging the Houthis to seize this unprecedented opportunity to sit down with the Republic of Yemen Government to chart a brighter future for Yemen.”

A UN-brokered ceasefire was reached last year and extended twice before the Houthis refused a third extension. But fighting and clashes have been significantly reduced, and cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia have stopped for months.

A China-backed deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran was widely expected to have a positive impact on the yearslong Yemen war.

The State Department previously welcomed the Saudi-Iran deal to normalize ties and reduce regional tensions. Yet, a senior State Department official told Al Arabiya English that it had not fully materialized into a halt to Iran’s negative behavior inside the country.

Iran reportedly vowed to halt smuggling weapons to the Houthis.

On Wednesday, Lenderking said Iran must follow through on its commitments to Saudi Arabia, including no smuggling of weapons into Yemen to the Houthis and supporting a political resolution to the war. “And we’re looking very closely to see whether those commitments from the Iranians have been made,” the US diplomat said.

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