US envoy warns against exploiting Yemen truce to gain advantage in war

Country's seven-year conflict cannot be resolved by fighting, Tim Lenderking tells ‘The National’

The ceasefire in Yemen is holding but must not be exploited to gain tactical advantage, the US envoy says. EPA
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Yemen’s extended truce should not be a time for regrouping or planning further conflict, the US envoy to Yemen told The National on Monday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the first Yemen International Forum in Stockholm, organised by the Sanaa Centre for Strategic Studies and the Swedish government, Tim Lenderking said those who believe the war in Yemen could be ended militarily are “fundamentally mistaken”.

“There’s nothing to be gained than more hurt on the Yemeni people and frustration on the part of the international community in pursuit of a military course,” he said.

Yemeni officials have accused the Houthi rebel group, who swept into Aden in 2014 and have been waging war against the internationally recognised government for seven years, of exploiting the two-month truce to regain advantage in the conflict.

Information Minister Muammar Al Eryani said the group was using the ceasefire to “catch a breath” and prepare for another strike. Mr Lenderking said that was not the purpose of the truce.

“The truce is not meant to be a regrouping exercise or an opportunity to rest up before battle,” he said.

As the first nationwide truce since the war began enters its third month, Mr Lenderking said it was important to resolve pending issues such as the opening of roads around the key city of Taez — which has yet to materialise despite being part of the agreement.

The ceasefire, most recently extended on June 2, expires on August 1.

“We would like to see substantive conversations on a durable ceasefire happen before August 2 — and that becomes possible except if there’s this lead ball that’s dragging the whole negotiation down because of unfulfilled commitments," Mr Lenderking said.

Taez is Yemen’s largest governorate and contains major connective roads, vital for civilian mobility and humanitarian aid flow.

Despite the difficulties, Mr Lenderking said the newly formed Yemeni government’s return to Aden helps it to become a “relevant actor” again.

He said the absence of the old government in Aden cost “a great deal of credibility inside Yemen”.

The US had maintained channels with all "relevant parties" in Yemen’s war for at least five years, the envoy said.

“President [Joe] Biden has put no restrictions," he said. "In fact, he’s encouraged contact between the US and all the relevant parties.”

Updated: June 21, 2022, 3:40 AM