Saudi Arabia says Houthis squandered chance for peace when US removed terror designation

US President Joe Biden said last week he was considering redesignating the group

Yemenis watch the Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea on a TV screen delivering a statement about alleged rebel attacks on Saudi and Emirati cities. EPA
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Saudi Arabia supports a US proposal to designate the Houthi rebel group as a foreign terrorist organisation, the kingdom’s ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al Jaber, said on Monday.

The Houthis have repeatedly carried out cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia from Yemen.

On January 17, they attacked the UAE, followed by a foiled attempt a week later in which two ballistic missiles aimed at Abu Dhabi were shot down.

The group was listed as a terrorist organisation during the last days of the Trump administration in 2019. But in February last year, Joe Biden’s government revoked the designation. Aid groups said the FTO designation was hampering work to import and distribute aid to Yemenis.

Instead, the US instead began to impose sanctions on individual members of the group, including Houthi leader Abdul-Malik Al Houthi and his deputy, Abdullah Yahya Al Hakim.

On Monday, Mr Al Jaber joined the UAE’s ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, in supporting a potential US move to redesignate the Houthi group as a whole.

“The US issued a lot of decisions about classifying the Houthi leadership as foreign terrorists and we’ll work towards classifying the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation,” Mr Al Jaber said.

“There are challenges with an FTO designation with the humanitarian situation in Yemen. The aim was for the international groups not to find themselves in a difficult situation with regards to the FTO.

“They gave the Houthis a chance, and the Houthis refused all peace initiatives and insisted on killing the Yemenis and target economic facilities in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and hamper maritime security.”

US President Joe Biden said last week he was considering redesignating the group.

It started a civil war in Yemen when it stormed the capital Sana’a in 2014, forcing the internationally recognised government to flee.

A Saudi-led coalition intervened in the conflict on behalf of the government in 2015.

“This is not an optional war. It’s a necessary one,” Mr Al Jaber said. “We are fighting alongside our Yemeni brothers in their war, to support them.”

Updated: January 25, 2022, 5:07 AM