US to Yemen’s Houthis: Stop attacking, start negotiating

Washington calls Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia ‘unacceptable’ and urges the Yemeni group to engage in political process.

Tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels hold their weapons in Sanaa in 2016
Yemen’s Houthi movement and Saudi Arabia have been engaged in tit-for-tat attacks for years, with the Iran-aligned rebels intensifying missile and drone attacks in the past several weeks [File: Hani Mohammed/AP]

The United States says the Houthi armed group must show willingness to engage in a political process to achieve peace in Yemen, after weeks of renewed missile and drone attacks carried out by the Iran-aligned rebels on Saudi Arabia.

The leaders of the Houthi movement “need to quite simply stop attacking and start negotiating”, Department of State spokesman Ned Price said on Monday.

Saudi Arabia intervened militarily in 2015 months after the Houthi rebels overthrew Yemen’s internationally recognised government and subsequently captured vast swaths of the country’s territory, including the capital Sanaa.

The Houthis have stepped up attacks on Saudi territory in recent weeks amid fresh diplomatic efforts by the Biden administration to end the war that has ravaged the most impoverished country in the Middle East.

The Yemeni group has defended the cross-border attacks, saying they are in response to deadly Saudi air raids in the country. On Sunday, the group launched a drone and missile attack at a Saudi oil facility in the Eastern Province, pushing global oil prices to the highest level in two years.

The Houthis said they also attacked military targets in the Saudi cities of Dammam, Asir and Jazan.

The Saudi-led coalition said most of the drones and missiles were intercepted en route to their targets and there were no casualties or property losses from the attacks on Sunday.

The kingdom said the Houthi attack on the Saudi Aramco facility at Ras Tanura on Sunday took aim at the security and stability of the global energy supply.

The state department said the US believed the latest attacks were by Houthis and that they were “unacceptable and dangerous” and put civilians at risk, including Americans.

The state department comments came hours before the Saudi-led coalition intercepted an armed drone launched by the Iran-aligned movement towards Khamis Mushait in southern Saudi Arabia, Saudi state media reported on Tuesday.

Last month, the US slapped sanctions on two Houthi leaders, citing their alleged roles in cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and shipping vessels in the Red Sea.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s foreign ministry said that Ankara was “concerned over the recent attacks targeting Saudi Arabian territories.”

The ministry called “for an immediate cessation of these attacks.”

Tit-for-tat attacks

The Houthi movement and Saudi Arabia have been engaged in tit-for-tat attacks for years, with the Iran-aligned rebels intensifying attacks in the past several weeks.

The renewed attacks on Saudi targets comes after US President Joe Biden halted support to Saudi offensive operations in Yemen’s war. Washington said, however, that it would continue to help Riyadh defend itself from regional threats.

Washington also reversed a decision by former US President Donald Trump to put Houthis on a “terror list”.

The latest escalation comes amid renewed diplomatic efforts by the US and the United Nations to reach a ceasefire that would pave the way for a resumption of UN-sponsored political talks to end the conflict.

Rights groups and international observers have criticised the Saudi-led war that has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced millions and pushed the Middle East’s poorest nation towards an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies