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US Secretary of State to review Houthi 'terrorist group' designation

Date of publication: 28 January, 2021

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Aid groups have warned that the Houthi 'terrorist group' designation could plunge Yemen into famine.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that he is taking a "very urgent and very close look" at the Trump administration's designation of Yemen's Houthi rebels as a "foreign terrorist organisation".

The State Department announcement comes after humanitarian groups warned that the designation of the group as "terrorist" could adversely affect aid deliveries to the war-torn country.

"It's vitally important even in the midst of this crisis that we do everything we can to get humanitarian assistance to the people of Yemen, who are in desperate need. And what we want to make sure is that any steps we are taking do not get in the way of providing that assistance," Blinken said after being sworn in.

Blinken noted that both the Houthis and a Saudi-led coalition leading the Yemen government's fight-back have contributed to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

The country is experiencing the world's biggest humanitarian crisis and the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist group could push Yemen deeper into famine, aid groups and the UN have warned.

"We want to make sure that not only are American aid groups able to do what they can to provide assistance, but so are aid groups around the world," Blinken said.

 Read also: US suspends sanctions on Yemen rebel dealings to boost aid

"It's vitally important even in the midst of this crisis that we do everything we can to get humanitarian assistance to the people of Yemen, who are in desperate need."

As Blinken took the helm of the State Department this month, the Joe Biden administration is pausing or reviewing a wide swath of Trump-era foreign policies.


On Monday the State Department sent its first signal of how its Yemen policy will be shaped by allowing all transactions with the Houthi movement for one month, as Washington reviews the group's designation.

The United Nations, however, said on Tuesday that it was still hold a hearing of companies planning to cancel or suspend business with Yemen.

UN officials have been trying to revive peace talks to end the war as the suffering of Yemenis worsens, particularly after an economic collapse and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The conflict is widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia, a US ally, and Iran, who support the Houthis.

Riyadh intervened in Yemen in 2015, leading a military coalition that supports the exiled government in its war against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who control around half of the country, including the capital Sanaa.

On Iran, Blinken said the administration is prepared to ease sanctions that the Trump administration re-imposed on Iran as long as Tehran returns to full compliance with the 2015 deal.

Blinken said that the US would look to strengthen and lengthen the terms of the accord, but "we're a long way from that point".

When asked about the status of the F-35 fighter jets deal between the United States and the UAE, Blinken said that the State Department was reviewing some pending foreign arms sales, calling it a "typical" move at the start of an administration.

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