Lenderking embarks on new US push for de-escalation in Yemen
WASHINGTON--US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking will travel to Saudi Arabia and Oman on Thursday for talks with government officials about efforts to end Yemen’s civil war, the US State Department said in a statement.
Lenderking’s “discussions will focus on ensuring the regular and unimpeded delivery of commodities and humanitarian assistance throughout Yemen, promoting a lasting ceasefire and transitioning the parties to a political process,” the statement said.
Lenderking “will build on the international consensus to halt the Houthi offensive on Marib, which only worsens the humanitarian crisis threatening the Yemeni people,” the State Department added.
Last week, Lenderking called the battle for the Marib region the single biggest threat to peace efforts. He said Iran’s support for the Houthi movement was “quite significant and it’s lethal.”
The battle for Yemen’s gas-rich Marib region is complicating US efforts to reach a ceasefire needed to end the war.
Since taking office in January, US President Joe Biden has made Yemen a priority and appointed Lenderking to help revive stalled UN efforts to end a conflict widely seen as a proxy war between rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Saudi Arabia proposed a comprehensive ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table, a proposal that the Houthis immediately rejected, saying a blockade on the country must first be lifted.
Lenderking’s visit to the region comes one day after Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met Houthi militias’ spokesman Mohammed Abdul Al Houthi in Oman on Wednesday.
During that meeting, Zarif reiterated Tehran’s support for a ceasefire and a return to talks to end the country’s long conflict, the Iranian foreign ministry said.
On Tuesday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz called on the Houthis to stop fighting and start peace negotiations.
The Houthi spokesman and other leaders of the Iran-aligned militias live in exile in Muscat.
Yemen’s conflict began after the Iran-aligned Houthi group ousted the country’s government from the capital Sana’a, prompting a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition to intervene in Yemen in 2015.
The civil war has created what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with some 80 percent of the country’s population of 29 million requiring aid and 13 million facing starvation.