The US Ambassador to Yemen, Christopher Henzel, made a "surprise" visit to the eastern governorate of Al-Mahra, arriving in the provincial capital of Ghaydah on Monday. According to Al-Mahra Online, the diplomat held a series of meetings with the governor Muhammad Ali Yasser and other local officials to discuss the developments in the province, with a focus on smuggling and terrorism.
Henzel also called for the urgent formation of a new government in accordance with the so-called Riyadh Agreement between the internationally-recognised Yemeni government, currently based in Saudi, and the UAE-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) who control parts of the south including the interim capital of Aden.
During a visit to al-Mahra, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Henzel expressed U.S. support for the Yemeni Government's efforts to counter terrorism, and stressed the importance of implementing the Riyadh Agreement as a matter of urgency. pic.twitter.com/oqlgga4tfQ
— US Embassy to Yemen السفارة الامريكية في اليمن (@USEmbassyYemen) November 30, 2020
"The political agreement is the only way to end the conflict, which will provide a solution to the painful humanitarian situation," he said, stressing that Yemen adhere to the power-sharing deal to form a new, unified government so as to deter the influence of Iran which recognises and supports the rival Houthi-led government based in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.
It has been suggested that the visit was not entirely spontaneous as it took place as the fractured country commemorated its Independence Day. The province which shares a border with Oman has also witnessed growing tensions and clashes between local tribes and Saudi troops, who are perceived as an occupying force. As such, Henzel's visit has also been interpreted as an effort by the US to legitimise and support the military presence of the Saudis whom he praised in their alleged role in fighting against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Henzel was appointed as US envoy to Yemen last year following two years as chargé d'affaires for the UN mission in Saudi Arabia. Between 2013 and 2016 he was director of the Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs at the Department of State in Washington.