President Biden’s new special envoy for Yemen said on Tuesday that he is “aggressively” using back-channel communications with the Houthis as part of a push to end the war in Yemen.
“We do have ways of getting messages to the Houthis and we are using those channels very aggressively as we’re engaging … in person with the leadership of the key countries involved,” Timothy Lenderking said at a State Department briefing.
Last week, Lenderking was in Saudi Arabia, where he met with Saudi officials and representatives of the government of exiled Yemeni President Abdu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
“We’re working now to energize international diplomatic efforts with our Gulf partners, the United Nations, and others to create the right conditions for a ceasefire to push the parties toward a negotiated settlement to end the war in Yemen,” Lenderking said on Tuesday.
Lenderking’s diplomacy is part of the Biden administration’s broader efforts to change US policy on Yemen. President Biden said he is ending support for Saudi Arabia’s “offensive” operations in the country and has suspended some Saudi arms sales. But questions remain over other aspects of the war, like the land, sea, and air blockade the US and Saudi Arabia have enforced on Yemen since 2015.
The blockade and the US-backed coalition’s bombing campaign has left 80 percent of Yemen’s population reliant on aid and led to widespread disease and mass starvation. In a new report, UN agencies warned that 400,000 Yemeni children under the age of five could starve to death in 2021 if the conditions do not change.
Fighting has been ongoing in Yemen’s Maarib Province, the last territory in the north of the country that the Saudi-backed government controls. The US State Department released a statement on Tuesday calling on the Houthis to cease their advance on Maarib.