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Peace in Yemen impossible without Gulf countries, US envoy says

Tim Lenderking, the US special envoy to Yemen, has said peace in the country will not be possible without the participation of Gulf countries.

In an interview with The National, Mr Lenderking also emphasised that a diplomatic solution must be found to Yemen’s decade-old civil war, which has pitted the internationally recognised central government against the Iran-backed Houthis.

“The Gulf countries are all united in their support for a genuine peace effort in Yemen,” he told The National.

“And we can’t do this without the Gulf countries.”

Mr Lenderking also highlighted the US’s commitment to facilitating and supporting the peace process, calling for regional co-operation to advance peace efforts.

“The United States wants to continue to support a peace process, and we’ll do everything we can to make that happen, allow that peace process to go ahead,” Mr Lenderking said.

The diplomat travelled to the Middle East in March, visiting Saudi Arabia and Oman to continue “intensive” efforts to build on the UN-mediated truce in Yemen.

However, the peace process faces significant roadblocks due to the actions of the Houthis, who control Yemen’s capital Sanaa and other areas in the west of the country.

Earlier this month, the UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg warned the peace process is at risk of becoming “collateral damage” amid wider regional conflict, criticising the Houthis for their attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea.

The group claims the attacks are being carried out in solidarity with Palestinians amid the Israel-Gaza war.

The attacks have prompted retaliatory strikes by the US and Britain since February, which Mr Lenderking stressed are focused on neutralising the threat to maritime security posed by the Houthis.

The attacks are “risky and indiscriminate and reckless behaviour,” the envoy said.

“This goes far beyond any sort of linkage with the crisis in Gaza … this is very quickly eroding any sort of goodwill or support that the Houthis have had in the international community, in the Security Council, among the P5,” Mr Lenderking said, referring to the five permanent members of the council.

“The Yemeni people, from everything I see, want their country back. They want foreign fighters out of Yemen. They don’t want Al Qaeda, they don’t want Daesh or the Islamic State. They don’t want the Iranians.”

Mr Lenderking highlighted the lack of public support for the Houthis within Yemen, citing their lack of popularity and “oppressive” governance.

He urged a return to dialogue and peace efforts.

“At the end of the day, the United States wants to return, move away from attacks in the Red Sea to de-escalation, and keep the focus on peace.”

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