Yemen pressuring Houthis to keep Safer tanker ‘away from political conflict’

RIYADH / AL-MUKALLA: The US on Wednesday demanded an end to the Houthi siege of Abedia to allow beleaguered civilians access to humanitarian aid.

The Iran-backed militia has surrounded the district in the battleground Yemeni province of Marib for more than three weeks, denying 35,000 people access to food, drinking water, medicines and other essentials.

Civilians in Abedia were suffering from what “looks to be encirclement,” a senior US official said at a briefing in the US Embassy in Riyadh.

“This is another example of one side pushing for a military solution and putting great pressure on the Yemeni people,” he said. “We call for this situation to be de-escalated and for humanitarian assistance to be able to flow into Abedia.

“We regard the current Houthi offensive in Marib as contrary to the principle of de-escalation. We believe outsiders cannot impose any solution in Yemen. I want to build on UN efforts and those of neighboring countries to create the best climate for Yemenis to negotiate their own future.”

The Houthis were an obstacle to peace, the official said. “How can a well-armed militia continue to operate inside Yemen and still contribute to a peace effort?” he said. “We believe, 100 percent, there is no military solution to this conflict.”

He said the US was not interested in merely a ceasefire, but in a longterm solution. “A ceasefire is one step we want to see happen in order to turn the corner away from conflict and move toward peace and security.”

Yemen’s government also increased the diplomatic pressure on the Houthis, urging the UN to intervene. In a phone call to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Foreign Minister Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak urged him to pressure the Houthis to end the siege. “I briefed him on the catastrophic situation in Abedia and called on UN to condemn this war crime, urgently provide essential needs and evacuate the injured,” the minister said.

Yemen’s permanent representative to the UN, Abdullah Al-Saadi, warned that civilians faced starvation and death as the Houthis intensified missile and drone strikes, and blocked the distribution of life-saving humanitarian aid. 

Despite the diplomatic efforts, the Houthis continued to bombard Abedia on Wednesday with missiles, mortar fire and explosive-rigged drones. Yemeni forces responded with counterattacks, and Arab coalition airstrikes hit Houthi targets outside Abedia.

“The coalition’s warplanes carried out intensive airstrikes on the Houthis,” said army spokesman Gen. Abdu Abdullah Majili.

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