Biden’s Yemen U-turn gets thumbs-up overseas

US president’s attempt to end war in Yemen goes down well abroad

epa08987646 US President Joe Biden makes a foreign policy speech at the State Department in Washington, DC, USA, 04 February 2021. Biden announced that he is ending US support for the Saudi’s offensive operations in Yemen.  EPA/JIM LO SCALZO
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As US President Joe Biden laid out his foreign policy goals on Thursday, politicians, campaigners and humanitarians overseas were quick to offer predominantly positive views on the US administration’s new direction.

In his first big speech on world affairs since his inauguration last month, Mr Biden said "America is back" and that "diplomacy is back at the centre" of US policy before laying out priorities for Myanmar, Russia, China and Yemen.

Mr Biden’s decision to stop backing Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen’s Houthi rebels received much attention. He reversed course from the Trump administration, which largely assisted Riyadh’s campaign, but pledged to help Saudi Arabia defend itself from attack.

“President Biden promised that he would reverse failed policies in Yemen. Today, he delivered,” David Miliband, chief executive of the International Rescue Committee and former UK foreign minister, wrote on Twitter.

He called it a “vital first step in reversing the tide of human misery that has engulfed the country”.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde welcomed the “enhanced US diplomatic support for UN peace efforts in Yemen” and Mr Biden’s appointment of Tim Lenderking as US envoy to a country ravaged by six years of bloodshed.

“A strong international push is needed to end the fighting and launch political talks,” Ms Linde said on Twitter.

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, distanced the Emirates from the military campaign in Yemen, which Abu Dhabi left in October for a pivot to peace talks.

“Eager to see the war over, the UAE has supported UN efforts and multiple peace initiatives,” Dr Gargash wrote on Twitter.

“Throughout, the UAE has remained one of the largest providers of humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people.”

A statement in Arabic from the government-run Saudi Press Agency praised Mr Biden’s pledge to “co-operate with the kingdom to defend its sovereignty and address the threats against it”.

Activists offered stronger words still. The UK-based group Amnesty International urged Mr Biden to go farther and cease arms sales to any hot spot where “they will be used to commit war crimes”.

The charity Oxfam said Mr Biden’s move was the result of years of campaigners organising, making phone calls to US legislators and signing petitions.

“YOU made this happen,” the group wrote on Twitter.

Mr Biden’s decision to increase the number of refugees allowed to enter the US was also warmly received. The president promised to raise admissions to 125,000 from the Trump administration’s 15,000.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR said this “will save many lives and sends a powerful signal to other countries to do the same”. Save the Children, an aid group, said it was “important to make refugees welcome in the US”.