Upon returning from a trip to the Gulf region, President Biden’s special envoy for Yemen is blaming the Houthis for a failure to reach a ceasefire despite the fact that the US-Saudi blockade is still being enforced. In comments at the Atlantic Council on Friday, Timothy Lenderking said he presented a new ceasefire proposal to the Houthis.
He said that the proposal “has been before the Houthi leadership for a number of days” and praised the Saudis for what he said is a commitment to “a unilateral ceasefire.”
Houthi spokesman Mohamed Abdulsalam responded to Lenderking’s comments and said the proposal does not meaningfully end the blockade, which is a key demand for the Houthis. Abdulsalam said the US effort would only partially open Sanaa airport to select destinations through permits issued by Riyadh.
“If they were serious about ending the aggression and the blockade, they would have announced an end to the war in a serious manner, and we would have welcomed that step,” Abdulsalam told Yemen’s Almasirah TV.
The US-back Saudi-led siege on Yemen has caused mass starvation in the country. The UN is warning that if conditions don’t change, 400,000 Yemeni children under the age of five will starve to death this year. Despite these facts, the blockade continues.
Lenderking’s comments came after a CNN investigation showed the effects of the blockade on the port city of Hodeidah. The report showed hundreds of food trucks stranded on the side of the road due to a lack of fuel. According to the investigation and the UN’s World Food Program, the Saudis have not allowed a fuel ship to dock in Hodeidah since January 3rd.
When confronted with these facts by CNN reporter Nima Elbagir, Lenderking denied the reality. “[Lenderking] denies the claims that we show in that report,” Elbagir told CNN’s Jake Tapper.”
“He says the US is committed to push the parties towards peace, and the questions that we have for him is: how is that possible when you are not acknowledging the full impact of that US-backed Saudi embargo on the people of Yemen?” Elbagir said.
Lenderking mentioned the investigation at the Atlantic Council on Friday and downplayed the effects of the blockade. “I know you’ve seen reports in the press lately to the contrary, but in reality food is consistently arriving at the Hodeidah port, according to data provided by the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism,” he said.
But as the report showed, it’s the lack of fuel that is impeding food deliveries, although Lenderking blames the Houthis. “Unfortunately we cannot ensure that food that passes through the port and reaches those in need, as that area is under Houthi control,” he said.
Lenderking also called on the Houthis to stop cross-border attacks inside Saudi Arabia. He said the Saudis are committed to a ceasefire “despite more than 30 Houthi attacks deep into the country with missiles and drones in this month alone.”
In February, the Houthis offered to stop attacks inside Saudi territory in exchange for an end to Saudi airstrikes in Yemen. But Riyadh continues to pound the country with bombs in Maarib and also in the capital Sanaa. The fact that the Houthis are able to launch these attacks despite the embargo and bombing campaign shows the siege is only working to kill civilians.