WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said the State Department was taking a “very urgent and very close look” at the Trump administration designation of Yemen’s Houthi movement as a foreign terrorist organization and wants to make sure aid groups can deliver assistance to the country.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blacklisted the Iran-aligned Houthis last week – a day before President Joe Biden took office – despite warnings from the United Nations and aid groups that it would push Yemen into a large-scale famine.
“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 told reporters at his first press briefing after being sworn in.
The United Nations describes Yemen as the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, with 80% of its people in need.
“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 added.
The United Nations on Tuesday said it was still hearing concerns that companies are planning to cancel or suspend business with Yemen despite a U.S. decision on Monday to allow all transactions with the Houthi movement for the next month as Washington reviews the designation.
A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting the Houthis in a war widely seen as a proxy conflict between U.S. ally Saudi Arabia and Iran. U.N. officials are trying to revive peace talks to end the war as Yemen’s suffering is also worsened by an economic collapse and the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Doina Chiacu, Simon Lewis and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Marguerita Choy)