US: Yemen Rebels Stalling Peace Deal 03/21 06:44
CAIRO (AP) -- The U.S. ambassador to Yemen on Thursday urged Iran-backed
rebels in the war-torn country to show "political maturity" and live up to
their responsibilities under a U.N.-negotiated peace deal for the port city of
Hodeida, Yemen's key gateway for international aid.
The remarks by U.S. Ambassador Matthew Tueller came a day after the
spokesman for Yemen's internationally recognized government called for
stepped-up international pressure on the rebels, known as Houthis, who have
refused to surrender Hodeida.
Speaking in the southern city of Aden, which has been serving as the seat of
Yemen's government since the rebels in 2014 seized the capital of Sanaa,
Tueller asked the Houthis to stop serving the interests of those who want to
further "weaken" Yemen --- a veiled reference to Iran.
In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition of mainly Arab states joined the war on
the side of the Yemeni government and has been fighting the Houthis since. The
conflict, mostly stalemated at this point, has spawned the worst humanitarian
crisis in the world today.
The last round of peace talks in Sweden late last year offered a glimpse of
hope after the warring sides agreed to withdraw their forces from Hodeida. They
remained, however, divided over who will run the key port once they pull out.
The U.N.-brokered deal was vague, saying a "local force" would take over
without specifying who would lead it.
Tueller said he is hoping "to see if the Houthis can demonstrate political
maturity" and urged them to stop serving Iran's agenda and instead "start to
serve the interest of the Yemeni people."
The U.S. provides billions of dollars of arms to the Saudi-led coalition and
rights groups have documented the killings of thousands of civilians in
coalition airstrikes. U.S. military advisers are also helping coalition
commanders in intelligence gathering.
Tueller ruled out the possibility of moving the U.S. Embassy to Aden, saying
it would give the impression that Washington could back a divided Yemen.
"Our hope is that we will reopen the embassy in Sanaa, the capital," he said.
On Wednesday, Rageh Badi, the Yemeni government spokesman, denounced remarks
by senior rebel leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi who earlier this week told The
Associated Press that a rebel withdrawal from Hodeida would be "impossible."
Badi said such remarks could set off new fighting in Hodeida and violate the
tentative peace agreement reached by the two sides in Sweden late last year.
The remarks are a "renunciation of the Hodeida agreement and a declaration
of war," Badi said, urging the U.N. to prevent another "explosion of the
situation" in Hodeida. The government fears the Houthis are using the current
Hodeida cease-fire to dig in and plant land mines ahead of another round of
fighting, he said.
Renewed all-out war in Hodeida would risk severing the main passage for
humanitarian aid to the rest of the country, including northern Yemen, a Houthi