Houthis should demonstrate more flexibility towards the truce: Special Envoy for Yemen Tim

Suzy Elgeneidy , Thursday 6 Oct 2022

US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking blamed in a phone conference on Wednesday the Houthi militias for obstructing the extension of the UN truce in Yemen and said that the Houthis imposed unacceptable conditions, including paying the salaries of their fighters first.

Sanaa, Yemen
Armed Houthi fighters attend the funeral procession of Houthi rebel fighters who were killed in recent fighting with forces of Yemen s internationally recognized government, in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. AP

 

This came as Lenderking provided the latest updates regarding the UN-mediated truce in Yemen, which expired on October 2nd without the parties reaching an agreement for an extension.

He also said that the US is concerned that the Houthis did not accept the UN’s proposal for a truce extension on the 2nd of October. 

"We do see that key elements of the truce continue to hold and that intensive UN-led negotiations and U.S. diplomacy continue unabated. When I talk about key elements of the truce holding, let me be clear what I mean. I mean that there is still a relatively low level of violence in the country. Fuel ships continue to offload into Hodeidah port. There will be more continuity in civilian–commercial flights from Sana’a airport.  These particular elements of the truce have been extremely effective and have delivered tangible results to the Yemeni people over the last six months," he said.

He stressed that there is a stark choice that lies ahead, that "on the one hand, there is a return to war, which will bring nothing but casualties and destruction on Yemen and will create further confusion as to where this conflict is headed. [and that] On the positive side, there is the opportunity to not only extend but expand the truce – that is, to bring more elements, positive elements of the truce, the likes of which would include flights, as I mentioned; there have been ongoing and very energetic discussions with numerous countries on additional flight destinations."

He stated that the US would anticipate that the kind of processing for fuel into Hodeidah would be streamlined even further.  "We expect to reach – be able to reach agreements on salary payments. This has been a core demand of both parties, right, to have the ability to pay Yemeni civil servants who have not been paid for many years: teachers, nurses, civil servants, to provide salaries for them," he said.

According to Linderking, these are the kinds of benefits that stand in the balance should the parties, particularly the Houthis, choose the path of peace.  It’s a very clear choice on the part as viewed by the international community and as viewed by the United States, he affirmed. 
 
"We already have a public commitment from the Yemeni Government, the Saudi-led coalition, on the salary issue. The stumbling block to renewing the truce on Sunday was, in fact, the Houthis imposing maximalist and impossible demands that the parties simply could not reach, certainly in the time that was available. So, I think if we see more flexibility from the Houthi side going forward, then this opens the road, I think, to this much better peace option," he said.

The US envoy reiterated that Washington and UN and international diplomacy continue unabated. He affirmed that there is absolutely no let-up in the engagement among the parties and across the lines of the conflict parties and that all channels remain open.

He referred to the tangible benefits of the peace, saying it included a "dramatic reduction of 60 percent in civilian casualties; over 25,000 Yemeni citizens being able to fly on commercial flights in and out of Sana’a airport for the first time since 2016; there’s five times more fuel per month coming onto the market through Hodeidah port compared to last year, which makes it more widely available and actually lowers fuel prices."
 
He called on the Houthis to listen to the calls from Yemeni men, women, and children, and to prioritize a brighter future for their country. 

He reiterated that an extended truce opens the way to a durable ceasefire and to Yemeni-Yemeni talks that will decide the future of the country.  "These are very significant possibilities that are within reach if the parties step forward and embrace it," he said.

He expressed the US concerns about the humanitarian situation in Yemen, arguing that most of the metrics that humanitarians look at to use to assess humanitarian needs point to the fact that the needs are great, and the funding is not adequate.

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