At a United Nations Security Council briefing on Yemen, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg said recent diplomatic engagement between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia is “a potential step change in the trajectory of this eight-year conflict.”
The past nine months have seen the longest period of relative calm in the country since the Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital city of Sanaa in 2014. The conflict has directly and indirectly claimed hundreds of thousands of Yemeni lives and created what the UN regularly refers to as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
Although a UN-mediated truce between the parties was not formally extended after it expired in October 2022, a significant decrease in civilian casualties and important elements of the truce remain in place.
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations Richard Mills welcomed the relative calm in Yemen and expressed hope that “the parties can reach a new expanded agreement that paves the way to an inclusive, durable peace.” Such an agreement should address Yemenis’ calls for justice and accountability, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken has previously said. For peace to occur, however, the Houthis must stop attacks on Yemen’s economic infrastructure, said Ambassador Mills:
“These attacks threaten to plunge Yemen back into conflict, deprive Yemenis of desperately needed resources, and worsen the humanitarian crisis.”
Ambassador Mills also deplored the steady flow of weapons sent by Iran to the Houthis. “Such lethal, external interference can only fuel war and suffering in Yemen at a time when Yemenis are calling for the Houthis to negotiate to end the war,” he said.
The best way for the Houthis to achieve their stated goals is to come to an inclusive, durable political agreement with the Yemen Government under the auspices of the United Nations, said Ambassador Mills. “Only a Yemeni-Yemeni political agreement can reverse Yemen’s dire humanitarian crisis.”
“2023 provides a unique opportunity for peace. The United States and the international community stand ready to support a peace and recovery process,” he said. “However, it is Yemenis themselves who must choose peace.”
“We call on the Houthis,” Ambassador Mills declared, “to engage in good faith, seize this unique moment of relative calm, and choose peace and a brighter future over more war and more suffering.”