A senior US official Thursday lauded Saudi Arabia for its productive role in Yemen, while criticizing the Iran-backed Houthis for their lack of good faith in negotiations.
“We are supportive and appreciative of the Saudi’s flexibility. We really think that they are now playing a productive role on Yemen,” David Schenker, the US Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affair, said during a webinar with the Middle East Institute think tank.
Schenker cited Saudi Arabia’s one-week unilateral ceasefire followed by a one-month unilateral ceasefire.
The Arab Coalition announced a complete ceasefire in Yemen in April.
He also commended the Riyadh Agreement, which looks to bring together the Southern Transitional Council and the internationally recognized Yemeni government under Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, back together “to get them to come to some sort of political agreement about representation within the government.”
The STC announced a self-administration rule in the south on April 25 and applied emergency rules in the city of Aden and southern governorates. Shortly after its “self-rule” announcement, Saudi Arabia urged all parties in the south of Yemen to abide by the Riyadh Agreement.
“If you want to make headway on negotiations with the Houthis about what their future role will be, it’s important to have a unified Yemeni government also sitting at the table,” the senior US official added.
While the senior US diplomat spoke positively of the kingdom’s good faith in negotiations, he said “we haven’t seen … by any stretch of imagination” the same good faith by the Houthis.
Speaking during the MEI webinar “Shifting Dynamics and US Priorities in the Middle East: A Conversation with David Schenker with Middle East Institute,” Schenker was asked about relations between Washington and the GCC.
He said that the relationship in the energy and security sectors remained solid.
“We remain tight partners with our Gulf friends and coordinate with them what we’re doing,” said Schenker while adding that “a lot is read into when we take an asset out of the region.”
He pointed out that there was still an “enormous” number of US troops in the region and assets that can reach the region “in relatively short time.”
On the security front, Schenker called the Saudi Arabian efforts a “success story” after filling the gap “very quickly” ensuring there was no interruption of oil in the markets following the September 2019 drone attacks on Aramco facilities.