US 'in it to the end' in Yemen peace process, says Tim Lenderking

Special envoy calls for increased diplomacy with war-torn country during this 'hopeful moment'

Tim Lenderking returned from a trip to the Middle East in March. Ryan Christopher Jones / The National
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US Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking said on Tuesday that Washington would continue efforts to ensure a stable peace in the country, following the first anniversary of the truce between the warring sides.

“We're in it to the end. It isn't just to to have another ceasefire and a start-over process. We want to be of help to the Yemeni people and to the region,” Mr Lenderking said.

He made his remarks during an address at Washington's Middle East Institute at a conference dedicated to exploring ways forward in Yemen, considered by the UN to be the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The US diplomat returned from a trip to the region in March, during which he travelled to Saudi Arabia and Oman to continue “intensive” efforts to build on the UN-mediated truce.

He expressed optimism for a lasting peace and urged the international community to seize the moment.

“This is a hopeful moment. And that's not something that we've been able to say too often about conflicts in the Middle East and certainly not in Yemen over the last eight years," Mr Lenderking said.

"This is the best opportunity for peace that Yemen has had since this war began. We absolutely must take full advantage of the positive strides that are emerging here."

President Joe Biden marked the anniversary of the truce on Sunday, praising it for saving "countless lives” and calling for all parties to take steps towards a lasting peace agreement.

After more than eight years of civil war, more than 17.8 million people, including 9.2 million children, lack access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene services, according to the UN.

The country continues to experience regular outbreaks of cholera, measles, diphtheria and other preventable diseases.

The UN hosted a meeting in February in a bid to raise $4.3 billion to provide support and protection for millions of people in the country.

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The recent Chinese-brokered normalisation of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran has increased hope of a resolution in Yemen, where the internationally recognised government has been fighting Houthi rebels for several years.

Washington has been cautious in its response to the deal, but has asserted it hopes normalisation is a positive step towards peace.

Mr Lenderking stressed that any peace needed Yemeni resolve.

“No agreement between regional actors — Saudis, the Iranians, the Emiratis — none of that equates to an end of the conflict … That's not for the outsiders to decide. We count on Yemenis coming around the table and being able to work through these issues," Mr Lenderking said.

Iran on Tuesday accepted an invitation for President Ebrahim Raisi to visit Saudi Arabia, in a move seen as the latest in reconciliation efforts between the two states.

Updated: April 04, 2023, 6:42 PM