US blames Houthis for stalling Yemen peace deal

Up to 2 million people in Yemen have been displaced since the start of the conflict three years ago, according to the UNHCR. (AFP)
Updated 24 March 2019

US blames Houthis for stalling Yemen peace deal

  • “We are making every possible effort to end the conflict in Yemen,” Tueller told a press conference in Aden
  • Tueller also said the Iran-backed militia’s weapons pose a threat to other countries in the region

LONDON: The US ambassador to Yemen blamed the Houthis on Thursday for impeding a UN-led peace deal in the main port of Hodeidah.

Matthew Tueller also said the Iran-backed militia’s weapons pose a threat to other countries in the region.

The Yemeni government and the Houthis reached a ceasefire and troop withdrawal deal for Hodeidah at talks in Sweden in December. The pact was the first major breakthrough in efforts to end the four year war.

While the truce has largely held, the troop withdrawal by both parties has yet to materialise.

"We are greatly frustrated by what we see as delays and stalling on the part of the Houthis in implementing what they agreed to in Sweden, but I have great confidence in the UN envoy and what he is doing," Tueller said in the southern port of Aden, where the internationally recognised government is based.

"We are willing to work with others in order to try to implement these (Sweden) agreements and see whether the Houthis can in fact demonstrate a political maturity and start to serve the interests of Yemen rather than acting on behalf of those who seek to weaken and destroy Yemen," he said.

Tueller said he had "not given up hope" that the deal would be implemented in Hodeidah, where thousands of Yemeni forces backed by the Arab coalition are massed on the outskirts.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that putting pressure on Iran will force the Houthis to abide by the Stockholm Agreement. 

Speaking to Al Arabiya during a regional tour focused largely on Iran, Pompeo added that the Houthis should know that they will not win the war in Yemen, and that the Iran-backed militia only work under the guidance of the Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei and the commander of Islamic Revolution Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Al-Quds Force Qassem Soleimani.

Tueller also added that Washington was concerned about the situation in Yemen, and reiterated US support for the Yemeni government.

“We are making every possible effort to end the conflict in Yemen,” Tuellersaid, emphasizing Washington’s interest in Yemen’s unity and stability.

Tueller said the US was working with Yemeni authorities to prevent arms smuggling from Iran and to strengthen local security institutions. He added that the possession of weapons should be limited to the state.

"The fact that there are groups that have weapons, including heavy weapons and even weapons that can threaten neighboring countries, and those weapons are not under the control of the institutions of the state - this is a severe danger to the region as well as to Yemen," he said.

Tueller added that Washington hopes to reopen the US embassy in Sanaa considering that it is the capital of Yemen.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the war between the Houthis and the internationally recognised Yemeni government . The Houthis ousted Hadi's government from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014.

Turkey: EU sanctions over gas drilling ‘worthless’

Updated 16 July 2019

Turkey: EU sanctions over gas drilling ‘worthless’

  • EU foreign ministers said they are suspending talks with Turkey over air transport agreement
  • They backed EU’s proposal to decrease financial assistance to Turkey

ANKARA: Turkey on Tuesday rejected as “worthless” an initial set of sanctions approved by the European Union against Ankara, and vowed to send a new vessel to the eastern Mediterranean to reinforce its efforts to drill for hydrocarbons off the island of Cyprus.
EU foreign ministers on Monday approved sanctions against Turkey over its drilling for gas in waters where EU member Cyprus has exclusive economic rights. They said they were suspending talks on an air transport agreement, as well as high-level Turkey-EU dialogues, and would call on the European Investment Bank to review its lending to the country.
They also backed a proposal by the EU’s executive branch to reduce financial assistance to Turkey for next year. The ministers warned that additional “targeted measures” were being worked on to penalize Turkey, which started negotiations to join the EU in 2005.
Speaking at a news conference in Macedonia, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the sanctions aimed to “appease” Cyprus and were of “no importance.”
“The EU needs us concerning the migration issue or other issues,” he said. “They will come to us and hold contacts; there is no escaping that.”
“They know that the decisions they took cannot be applied,” he said. “They were forced to take the worthless decisions under pressure from the Greek Cypriots and Greece.”
Cavusoglu added: “If you take such decisions against Turkey, we will increase our activities. We have three ships in the eastern Mediterranean, will with send a fourth.”
Earlier, the Turkish Foreign Ministry criticized the EU for ignoring the rights of Turkish Cypriots and accused the 28-nation bloc of “prejudice and bias.”
It added that Turkey was determined to protect its rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
Two Turkish vessels escorted by warships are drilling for gas on either end of ethnically divided Cyprus. A third Turkish exploration ship is also in the area. Turkey insists that it has rights over certain offshore zones and that Turkish Cypriots have rights over others.
Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence is recognized only by Turkey, which keeps more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys full membership benefits.
Cypriot officials accuse Turkey of using the minority Turkish Cypriots in order to pursue its goal of exerting control over the eastern Mediterranean region.
The Cypriot government says it will take legal action against any oil and gas companies supporting Turkish vessels in any repeat attempt to drill for gas. Cyprus has already issued around 20 international arrest warrants against three international companies assisting one of the two Turkish vessels now drilling 68 kilometers off the island’s west coast.