Yemen government urges US to list Houthis as foreign terrorist organisation

Yemeni minister accuses Iran-backed rebel group of war crimes

FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2018, file, photo, tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels hold up their weapons as they attend a gathering to show their support for the ongoing peace talks being held in Sweden, in Sanaa, Yemen. The United Nations has cast doubt on the claims by Yemen’s Shiite rebels to have withdrawn from the port of Hodeida, saying such steps can only be credible if all other parties can verify them.(AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)
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Yemen's government has urged the US to designate the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organisation, citing the Iran-backed rebels' human rights record.

The Minister of Information, Muammar Al Iryani, said late on Wednesday that the crimes committed by some members of the Houthi group amount to war crimes.

“Since the start of the war, Houthi rebels have mobilised a generation of Yemeni youths, in areas that are under their control, with terror and aggressive ideologies,” Mr Al Iryani said during a meeting with the US Ambassador to Yemen, Mathew Tueller.

The minister listed Houthi abuses against civilians as ranging from rape, torture, to disappearances, adding he did not believe the rebels were serious about finding a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict.

Both the Trump and the Obama administration have examined the issue at hand, but both have been inconclusive.

Experts have previously warned this could complicate UN efforts to push for a political solution.

Designating the group as a terror organisation could result in the freezing of assets of its members, as well as travel restrictions and other penalties against those suspected of supporting the group.

The development came as Houthi representatives met with European officials in Brussels on Thursday.

Abdel Malik Al Ajri, rebel representative, said discussions focused on Yemen’s humanitarian and political crisis and the reopening of Sanaa airport.

The airport was closed to commercial traffic in 2016, leaving thousands of Yemenis with no practical way of leaving the country. Any reopening would require an agreement between Yemen’s warring sides.

Efforts were stalled during UN-led peace talks in Sweden last December, where the two sides failed to come to a unified conclusion.

Experts have repeatedly stressed that only negotiations between the two sides can lead to a political solution to the war.

"In general, in order to end a conflict, you must talk to everyone and a key question here is how these conversations are being framed," Adam Baron, visiting fellow at ECFR and International security program fellow at new America, told The National.

The war in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of civilians and has left millions suffering from food and medical shortages, pushing the country to the brink of famine.