Houthis must return to talks, end war, play constructive role: US ambassador

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi

Hadramaut officials take part in a discussion with US Ambassador to Yemen Steven Fagin and an accompanying delegation in al-Mukalla on November 8. [Hadramaut Governor's Media Office]

Hadramaut officials take part in a discussion with US Ambassador to Yemen Steven Fagin and an accompanying delegation in al-Mukalla on November 8. [Hadramaut Governor's Media Office]

ADEN -- US Ambassador to Yemen Steven Fagin on November 21 called on the Houthis to "return to the negotiating table, end the devastating war, and play a constructive role in achieving a comprehensive political settlement".

He lamented that the group's unwillingness to compromise had led to the lapse of the ceasefire that had brought relief and tangible benefits to the people of Yemen and undermined gains, expressing concern over renewed escalation.

"The Yemeni people deserve better," he said.

He noted that the Houthis' attacks on Yemen's ports would harm only the Yemeni people by worsening fuel shortages, and he called on the Iran-backed group to halt its threats to international maritime commerce.

Hadramaut governor Mabkhout bin Madi (L) takes questions with US Ambassador to Yemen Steven Fagin. [Hadramaut Governor's Media Office]

Hadramaut governor Mabkhout bin Madi (L) takes questions with US Ambassador to Yemen Steven Fagin. [Hadramaut Governor's Media Office]

The same day, the Houthis staged an attack with at least one weaponised drone that reportedly targeted a vessel near al-Dhaba, an oil terminal near Ash Shihr, to the east of the Hadramaut provincial capital of al-Mukalla.

On November 9, the Houthis attacked an oil tanker while it was docked at Qena port in the southern province of Shabwa, to the east of Hadramaut.

And on October 21, the Houthis attacked al-Dhaba port with two drones, in the first assault of its kind since the truce expired on October 2.

The attack did not lead to casualties or damage, the Yemeni government said, warning that it was keeping "all options" on the table in response to the attack.

Information Minister Muammar al-Eryani described the attack as a "dangerous escalation", AFP reported.

The Houthis have attempted to portray their attacks on oil ports in government-held areas as a heroic campaign against the foreign plundering of Yemen's oil wealth.

In a statement, the group claimed its latest attack was launched "to prevent the continuation of the widespread looting of oil wealth and the failure to allocate it to serve the people ... and pay the salaries of the employees".

But the attacks are in reality a bid to gain advantage in future talks or truce agreements, analysts said, noting that the Houthis have been demanding that Yemen's government pay soldiers' salaries in areas under Houthi control.

Visit to Hadramaut

Fagin travelled to al-Mukalla earlier in the month, with a US delegation, for talks with Hadramaut governor Mabkhout bin Madi and other local officials.

In a November 8 meeting, the two sides discussed enhancing support for security, the fight against terrorism, and vital sectors that directly affect Yemeni citizens and Hadramaut's development.

Bin Madi commended the role of the United States in combating terrorism, and said he looks forward to boosting co-operation to combat terrorism and support security, development and services.

Hadramaut seeks peace, he said, adding that residents look forward to making it a model for public awareness about the dangers of terrorism, as well as a model for security and law and order.

Fagin said the visit aimed to demonstrate US support for Yemen, noting his country's condemnation of the Houthis' drone attack on the port of al-Dhaba.

The US ambassador affirmed the support of the international community to bringing peace to Yemen.

He also highlighted an August 4 announcement that the United States, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), is providing $431 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the people of Yemen.

This brings the total amount of US aid to more than $1 billion in fiscal year 2022.

The funding is enabling USAID partners to continue reaching millions of vulnerable Yemenis with emergency food assistance, treatment for malnutrition, protection, and safe drinking water and improved sanitation services.

In a previous meeting with a US Army Civil Affairs team, held November 1, with Hadramaut officials in attendance, Bin Madi stressed the role of the United States in efforts to combat terrorism in Yemen.

The governor said the Houthis' recent strikes on al-Dhaba aimed to harm the infrastructure of the national economy and paralyse international navigation on the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea.

Economic, security support

"The US ambassador's visit to Hadramaut is his second since his appointment last June," political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.

"It is evidence of the US interest in Yemen and Hadramaut and in supporting them economically, developmentally and in combating terrorism," he said.

Iran's threats and smuggling of weapons from Yemen's coast and the Arabian Sea "compel the United States to strengthen its security co-operation to serve Yemen and its stability and the stability of the region", he said.

Fagin's visit and declaration of support for Yemen and Hadramaut are "an important matter that should be taken advantage of in aspects that primarily support development", said Hadramaut deputy governor Sheikh Abdul Hadi al-Tamimi.

"I think the most important project is the implementation of gas-powered power plants [with capacity of] no less than 1,000 megabytes, including power transmission lines and towers," he told Al-Mashareq.

A food security project using solar energy and rain-fed irrigation is another important initiative in need of US support, he said.

"Economic support and humanitarian aid are extremely important, given that Yemen suffers from poverty and unemployment, which has risen significantly," said economist Abdul Aziz Thabet.

Through the US Army's Civil Affairs team, he said, the United States is making a remarkable effort "in supporting the education and health sectors and civil society organisations".

"Continued support of vulnerable groups and support of the education and health sectors with the necessary equipment to meet the needs of society have positive repercussions for the individual and society," he said.

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