In a policy speech on Thursday, President Joe Biden said that his administration would end its support for offensive operations on the part of the Saudi-led coalition, which encompasses the internationally recognized Government.
The coalition – which includes other Arab nations backed by the US, UK, and France – began air strikes against Houthi or Ansar Allah-held areas of the country in early 2015.
UN figures published in December, indicate that just over 230,000 may have died during the conflict, including some 131,000 from indirect cause such as lack of food, and healthcare.
“We welcome the decision of the United States to strengthen its diplomatic engagement in support of the UN-led efforts to find a negotiated, comprehensive political solution to end the conflict in Yemen”, the note to correspondents based at UN Headquarters said.
“This is a positive development that could create further momentum for dialogue. Special Envoy Griffiths looks forward to working constructively with all parties at this critical time for the Yemeni people”, added the note from the Spokesperson’s Office.
According to news reports, as part of its policy shift, the Biden administration has put a temporary halt on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who are coalition partners. The US has reportedly named a new special envoy for Yemen, to bolster the new diplomatic effort, but also made clear that the initiative will not affect its operations against terrorist group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Reverse terrorist designation
The UN statement concluded by welcoming “all decisions seeking to create further space for dialogue and to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people. In this connection, we continue to call for the reversal of the designation of the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and Specially Designated Global Terrorist.”
The previous US administration announced last month that it was designating the Houthis a terrorist organization, based on what the then Secretary-of-State said were previous cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia, and alleged “malign activity” by Iran in the Yemen conflict.
Senior UN officials are calling for the full reversal of the designation, along with other humanitarian partners in Yemen, although the Biden administration has said it will exempt some transactions involving the Houthis, on humanitarian grounds. Those exemptions are set to expire on 26 February.
The UN said that the request for full reversal of the designation was “based purely on humanitarian grounds, amidst a growing risk of famine in Yemen.”