Iran and Yemen in focus as senior US diplomats head to region

Visits come as Washington continues indirect negotiations with Tehran in Vienna

2F883MF Berlin, Germany. 12th Apr, 2021. US Special Envoy to Yemen Timothy Lenderking in a press conference. Credit: John Macdougall/AFP-Pool/dpa/Alamy Live News
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US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking has arrived in Saudi Arabia to discuss efforts to end Yemen's civil war and ease the flow of aid to the ravaged country, as other senior US officials are set to visit the region to give updates on the indirect negotiations under way with Iran.

Mr Lenderking, who will also visit Oman, will meet Saudi officials for talks focusing "on ensuring the regular and unimpeded delivery of commodities and humanitarian assistance throughout Yemen, promoting a lasting ceasefire and transitioning the parties to a political process," the US State Department said.

Since taking office in January, President Joe Biden has made Yemen a priority and he appointed Mr Lenderking as the first envoy to the country to help revive stalled UN efforts to end the conflict.

Yemen is currently suffering from the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN, with about 80 per cent of the country's 29 million people requiring aid while 13 million face starvation.

The war started in 2015 when the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels took control of the capital, ousting the internationally recognised government. A Saudi-led military coalition intervened at the government’s request.

The National has confirmed that a separate delegation led by senior White House and State Department officials Brett McGurk and Derek Chollet will be making its first visit to the region in the coming days.

“A senior inter-agency delegation will be travelling over the coming week to discuss a number of important matters related to US national security and ongoing efforts towards a de-escalation of tension in the Middle East region,” a US official said.

A source said the delegation would visit Saudi Arabia and the UAE to discuss the status of the Iran talks, while Reuters reported the tentative itinerary also included Egypt and Jordan.

A US delegation in Vienna is currently holding indirect talks with Iran in a bid to bring Washington back into the nuclear deal that former president Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.

The Biden administration is considering a near wholesale rollback of some of the most stringent Trump-era sanctions imposed on Iran in a bid to bring Tehran back into compliance with the accord, The Associated Press reported.

Diplomats have said a concrete result from the talks could come within weeks.

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