US considering blacklist for Yemen's Houthis, says Oman foreign minister

It was reported last month that US President Donald Trump's administration had threatened to blacklist the Houthi movement

In this image made from UNTV video, Badr bin Hamad bin Hamood AlBusaidi, foreign minister of Oman, speaks in a pre-recorded message which was played during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at U.N. headquarters. (UNTV via AP)

Oman's foreign minister said on Saturday the top US diplomat for the Middle East had discussed with his country the possibility of Washington designating Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement as a terrorist group.

"Yes, that was raised," Sayyed Badr Al Busaidi told a Bahrain summit in response to a question on whether the potential blacklisting had been broached by David Schenker during a recent visit to Muscat.

"I don't think there is a solution based on classifying or blockading one key player in that conflict and not bringing them to the negotiating table," the Omani minister added.

Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters last month that US President Donald Trump's administration had threatened to blacklist the Houthi movement, which has been battling a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition in Yemen since 2015.

The United Nations is trying to revive peace talks stalled since late 2018 to end the war that has been in a military deadlock for years, with the Houthis still holding the capital, Sanaa, and most big urban centres.

"My question to that (a US designation) is that decision going to resolve the Yemeni conflict given that this group is a key player? Or is it better to really support what the United Nations envoy is trying to do by inviting everyone including that group to the table," Mr Al Busaidi said.

Yemen's conflict is largely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The Houthis, who ousted Yemen's Saudi-backed government from power in Sanaa in late 2014, deny being puppets of Tehran and say they are fighting a corrupt system.

Aid workers have raised fears that if Washington designates the Houthis as a terrorist organisation, it could prevent life-saving aid from reaching Yemen, where more than 80 per cent of the population needs help.