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After US designates Houthis as terrorists, UN warns Yemen 'highly dependent' on aid, imports

January 17, 2024 at 7:50 pm

Secretary-General spokesperson Stephane Dujarric on 15 January, 2024 [Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images]

The UN warned, Wednesday, that Yemen is “highly dependent” on commercial and humanitarian imports after the US re-designated the country’s Houthi group as foreign terrorists, Anadolu Agency reports.

“Yemen is highly dependent on commercial imports for its goods, and also on humanitarian aid. So we are committed to continuing to support the people of Yemen with our humanitarian work in line with our principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence,” spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters.

The Biden administration announced, earlier Wednesday, that it is re-listing the Houthis as specially designated global terrorists, and is applying sanctions to the rebels, in response to the group’s attacks in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Strikes conducted by the US and UK since Thursday have so far failed to deter the Houthis, who have continued to target commercial vessels in the strategic waterway. A Houthi spokesperson said the US decision will not affect the group’s ongoing attacks.

The US sanctions will not go into effect for 30 days, to allow for the US to “conduct robust outreach to stakeholders, aid providers and partners who are crucial to facilitating humanitarian assistance and the commercial import of critical commodities in Yemen,” the State Department said.

US President Joe Biden quickly overturned the Houthis’ terrorist designation, made by his predecessor, shortly after he came into office in 2021. Aid groups had warned that sanctioning the Houthis, and making them a proscribed group, would further prevent aid from reaching Yemen, which even before the ongoing conflict was the Arab world’s poorest nation.

The Houthis remain in control of much of western Yemen after overrunning Sana’a, the capital, in 2014. The Houthis also retain control of the port city of Hudaydah, through which much of the international community’s humanitarian assistance flows.

Dujarric noted the 30-day moratorium being implemented by the US, but said: “Unilateral sanctions, in any context, can have an impact, often unintended, on the well-being of civilians.”

The US terrorist designation will be effective as of 16 February.

The Red Sea is a critical commercial waterway, connecting the Mediterranean Sea via Egypt’s Suez Canal with the Gulf of Aden. It allows vessels to avoid the much longer and costlier trip around the southern tip of Africa on their way to and from Europe and Asia.

READ: US re-designates Yemen Houthis specially designated global terrorists