Houthi rebels are a 'stumbling block' in Yemen's peace process, minister says

Iran-backed militias have yet to honour UN agreement and re-open roads around city of Taez

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Yemen’s Information Minister Moammar Al Eryani on Monday said the Houthi rebel group was as a “stumbling block” to peace efforts, after a UN-brokered two-month truce was extended this month.

Although the warring sides have accused each other of truce violations, the UN said violence has decreased since the agreement took effect on April 1.

In an interview with state-owned Saba news, Mr Al Eryani accused the Iran-backed Houthis of “besieging civilians and looting revenue for their own benefit and not giving employees their wages”.

He said the group used the dire humanitarian situation as a “bargaining chip and a tool for exploitation”, claims that are made by the rest of the government and the Saudi-backed coalition fighting the rebels.

The UN said the Houthis have been hoarding aid and not distributing it to those in need.

A report published in 2020 found the Houthis had blocked half of UN aid and taken a cut from of billions of dollars in assistance.

Despite this, Mr Al Eryani reiterated the Yemeni government‘s commitment to the UN-brokered truce, adding that it had stopped fighting in several places.

The Houthis have not launched attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE since April 1, although such incidents were increasingly frequent in the months leading up to that date.

In accordance with the UN agreement, the Yemeni government helped oil tankers into the port of Hodeidah and restarted flights at Sanaa International Airport to and from Egypt and Jordan six years after the site was closed.

In return, Mr Al Eryani said, the Houthis “did not carry out their commitments per the UN agreement and have continued violations on the frontlines”.

He also blamed the group for disavowing their role in making civilian movement and goods traffic between governorates easier.

The April 1 truce said that the Houthis should “immediately” open roads in and around Taez, Yemen’s third largest city, which has been besieged since March 2016.

It is central to road traffic across Yemen in all directions.

The coalition and the Yemeni government began fighting the Houthis after the group took over the capital, Sanaa, in 2015.

Mr Al Eryani asked the international community to re-evaluate its dealings with the Houthis and to exert “real pressure” on the group to ensure they are genuinely engaged in making peace.

Updated: June 13, 2022, 12:21 PM