UN says millions of people in Yemen are at risk of famine and billions of dollars in aid is needed to avoid a disaster.
The US secretary of state has told the UN special envoy for Yemen that Washington plans to “reinvigorate diplomatic efforts” to end the war in Yemen, reiterating the Biden administration’s stance that there is no military solution to the conflict.
“He [Antony Blinken] highlighted that the US supports a unified, stable Yemen free from foreign influence and that there is no military solution to the conflict,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on Sunday.
Tens of thousands of civilians have died and millions are facing hunger since Saudi Arabia led a coalition that intervened militarily months after Houthi rebels overthrew Yemen’s internationally recognised government in late 2014 and captured large parts of territories in the country’s north, including the capital Sanaa.
Rights groups have criticised Saudi Arabia for its six-year bombing campaign that has created what the UN termed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in the Middle East’s poorest nation. They also highlighted how US support to the Saudis helped aggravate the crisis.
US President Joe Biden ended US support for the Saudi-led offensive, in a break with the policies of his predecessor Donald Trump, who turned a blind eye to Riyadh’s human rights abuses in Yemen.
Since taking over in January, Biden has appointed Timothy Lenderking as US envoy for Yemen as his administration boosted diplomatic efforts to end a war that brought catastrophe for the Yemenis.
The UN estimates that 80 percent of Yemen’s 24 million people are in need of aid.
Houthis welcome Blinken’s comments
In the introductory call with UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths on Sunday, Blinken expressed US concern regarding the conflict, particularly the humanitarian toll on the Yemeni people, the state department said.
“The Secretary underscored that the United States’ efforts under Special Envoy Lenderking intend to reinvigorate diplomatic efforts, alongside the UN and others, to end the war in Yemen.”
Houthi official Mohammed Ali al-Houthi said on Monday that Blinken’s comments about supporting a Yemen free from foreign influence are “positive”.
He said the US should back up its intentions by ending its involvement in military operations carried out by the Saudi-led coalition against his group.
The Houthis, who have been battling the Saudi-led coalition since it intervened in Yemen, recently stepped up cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.
Houthis said on Monday it had fired armed drones at an airport and airbase in southern Saudi Arabia. Riyadh said it had intercepted an explosive drone.
This appears to be the first news of Houthi drones being fired into Saudi Arabia in almost a week.
Attack on Saudi soil
Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said three drones had been fired at military targets at Abha airport and the King Khalid airbase in the southern town of Khamis Mushait. He said the targets had been struck.
There was no immediate Saudi confirmation that those locations had been hit, but the coalition said it had early on Monday intercepted a Houthi drone fired towards Khamis Mushait.
On March 7, the coalition said a barrage of drones and missiles had been intercepted en route to their targets, which included an oil storage yard at Ras Tanura, the site of a refinery and the world’s biggest offshore oil-loading facility as well as a residential compound in Dhahran used by state oil giant Saudi Aramco.
The UN and the US have urged the Houthis, who are also pressing an offensive against government-held Marib city in Yemen, to turn to negotiations rather than military escalation.
Lenderking said last week a “sound plan” for a nationwide ceasefire in Yemen had been put to the Houthi leadership.