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US envoy to Yemen made ‘surprise visit’ to Mahra, urged implementing Riyadh deal 

December 2, 2020 at 4:26 pm

US Ambassador to Yemen Christopher Henzel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 29 April 2018 [U.S. Department of State/Flickr]

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.

“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.

READ: Riyadh delays the inevitable; the Houthis have the power in Yemen, Hadi has no authority

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.

READ: Yemen’s Houthi govt calls on southerners to resist Saudi-UAE occupation