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UN condemns seizure of US Embassy in Yemen by Iran-backed Houthis

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The UN Security Council on Thursday condemned “in the strongest terms” the intrusion and seizure of the now-closed US Embassy in Yemen’s capital and the detention of dozens of local employees by the country’s Iran-backed Houthis.

A statement approved by all 15 members of the UN’s most powerful body called for “an immediate withdrawal of all Houthi elements from the premises” and “the immediate and safe release of those still under detention.”

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US State Department Spokesman Ned Price told reporters last week that diplomatic efforts had succeeded in securing the release of most of the detained employees, but that some remain in custody. He said then that work was continuing to free the others.

The Security Council stressed that the Vienna convention prohibits any intrusion into diplomatic property as well as the “inviolability” and “immunity” of the premises from searches and requisition — and that property and archives of a diplomatic mission that has been temporarily closed “must be respected and protected.”

The council’s statement followed Wednesday’s demand by the United Nations for the release of two UN staffers detained earlier this month by the Yemen militants.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that UN officials were given assurances by senior Houthi officials last week that the two men, both Yemenis, would be released. He told reporters Thursday that they still have not been freed.

He said the UN staffers work for the UN human rights office and UNESCO, and were detained on Nov. 5 and Nov. 7.

Yemen has been convulsed by civil war since 2014, when the Iran-backed Houthis took control of the capital, Sanaa, and much of the northern part of the country, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee to the south, then to Saudi Arabia.

The Arab Coalition entered the war in March 2015, backed by the United States, to try restore President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power. Despite a relentless air campaign and ground fighting, the war has deteriorated largely into a stalemate and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Read more: Top US lawmakers lambaste Iran-backed Houthis after detaining of Embassy staff