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US Yemen envoy urges response on ceasefire plan with Houthis

US Yemen envoy urges response on ceasefire plan with Houthis
The Houthis are pushing towards the gas-rich region of Marib, the government’s last stronghold in northern Yemen.

A “sound plan” for a nationwide ceasefire in Yemen has been before Houthi leadership for “a number of days”, but it appears the group is prioritising a military offensive to take Marib, the US special envoy for Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, said on Friday.

“I will return immediately when the Houthis are prepared to talk,” Lenderking told the Atlantic Council think tank after a visit to the region to revive efforts to end the six-year conflict that is widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“The US and UN – we urge the Houthis to respond,” he said. “If we cannot make progress now, the country will spiral into greater conflict and instability.”

Yemen’s Houthis spokesman Mohamed abdelsalam told Almasirah TV on Friday the American proposal for a nationwide ceasefire has nothing in it and represents the Saudi and the UN vision.

The American proposal doesn’t include ceasing fire or breaking the siege, and it would lead to a resumption of a blockade, the spokesman added.

A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Iran-allied Houthi group overthrew the country’s government from the capital Sanaa. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system.

“We now have a sound plan for a nationwide ceasefire with elements that would immediately address Yemen’s dire humanitarian situation directly,” Lenderking said. “That plan has been before the Houthi leadership for a number of days.”

The Houthis, however, have recently pushed towards the gas-rich region of Marib, aiming to take the government’s last stronghold in the north of Yemen. The United Nations has warned that millions of civilians are at risk.

“Tragically, and somewhat confusingly for me, it appears that the Houthis are prioritising a military campaign to take Marib … over suspending the war and moving relief to the Yemeni people,” Lenderking said.

He announced that the United States would restore humanitarian aid funding for northern Yemen, and said Washington would work with the governments of Yemen and Saudi Arabia to find a way to deliver fuel to the Yemenis who need it most.

The United Nations describes the Yemen conflict as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

On Thursday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a high-level UN Security Council meeting organised by the US that more than 88 million people in Yemen and three dozen other countries were suffering from “acute hunger” at the end of 2020 due to conflict and instability.

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