President Joe Biden’s special envoy for Yemen on Thursday condemned the Iran-backed Houthis for continuing to detain 12 current and former US and UN staff.
“It’s still extremely unfortunate, and we condemn the Houthi detention of 12 of our current and former US and UN staff,” Special Envoy Tim Lenderking said. “They’re still being held in incommunicado in Yemen, in Sanaa.”
Speaking to reporters about the recent extension of the ceasefire in Yemen, Lenderking said the detention of US employees sends “an extremely negative signal.”
He added: “We want to see a demonstration of good faith by the Houthis, in releasing these individuals unconditionally.”
The US closed its mission in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis overthrew the internationally recognized government.
Last October, the Houthis detained 30 local Yemeni staff and were subsequently released with the help of Washington’s regional partners, a State Department official previously told Al Arabiya English.
But the group later detained more US employees and others that worked for the United Nations.
It is unclear how many of the detainees are US employees.
Meanwhile, the warring sides agreed to extend a two-month UN-backed ceasefire earlier this week. But the UN and the US are working to establish a permanent solution to the yearslong war, which is considered to have resulted in one of the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophes.
UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg Tuesday thanked all sides for being able to extend the ceasefire, which has been the longest period of a truce since the war broke out. He said that he would “intensify” talks with the parties to ensure the full implementation of all the parties’ obligations in the truce. Grundberg, as Lenderking did, singled out Saudi Arabia and Oman for their support in efforts to end the war.
Asked why he has confidence that a longer-lasting truce could be reached, Lenderking said the parties had taken tough decisions to agree to the first two extensions. Lenderking said the US president was very committed to ending the conflict.
“I’m not going to say I’m overconfident because I think what needs to happen, going forward, is not just maintaining, but really building and expanding and building and expanding on the terms that have been agreed to,” he said.
But Lenderking warned that “some very difficult issues like salary payments” were coming up. “We’re already… in terms of our sprint to October 2, looking at ways that we can support that effort, which the UN is leading,” he said.
As for the Houthis, Lenderking said they need to open the main roads to Taiz, which continues to be under siege.
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