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
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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.


Displaced by conflict, Libyan students fear for their future

Updated 24 May 2019
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Displaced by conflict, Libyan students fear for their future

  • “We’ve fallen behind... and I don’t even know where we will sit our final exams..." one high school student said
  • More than 75,000 people have been driven from their homes in the latest fighting

TRIPOLI: The fight for control of Libya’s capital is depriving tens of thousands of pupils of their education, with high school students displaced by the violence fretting about their future.
“We’ve fallen behind... and I don’t even know where we will sit our final exams or how they will calculate my grades,” said Mayar Mostafa, a teenager in her last year of high school.
Mostafa said the fighting has forced her and her family to flee their home in a southern Tripoli suburb, while her school has shut its doors.
All this has left her “psychologically stressed out,” she lamented.
Mostafa is among those who are living in limbo — not knowing when they will be able to resume their studies to salvage the school year, or when life as a whole might return to normal.
On April 4, strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to seize the capital Tripoli and unseat the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
More than 75,000 people have been driven from their homes in the latest fighting and 510 have been killed, according to the World Health Organization.
More than 2,400 have also been wounded, while 100,000 people are feared trapped by the clashes raging on the capital’s outskirts.
Fighting between Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army and forces loyal to the GNA continues to rage south of Tripoli, and the UN envoy has warned of a “long and bloody war.”
Mostafa remembers the day the fighting erupted, saying she was woken by “the deafening sound of machine-gun fire and cannons.”
“We had to flee our home in the midst of a decisive school year,” she said.
“I was planning to go to university next year... Now I don’t know my fate.”
According to the UN’s agency for children, UNICEF, the fighting is “directly affecting some 122,088 children.”
“The academic year has been suspended in all schools in conflict-affected areas, and seven schools are currently sheltering displaced families,” UNICEF said last month.
It noted that an “attack on an education warehouse destroyed 5 million schoolbooks and national school exam results” in April.
In many schools classes are suspended because teachers have been trapped by fighting and are unable to reach work.
According to Rachad Bader, the head of a crisis cell set up by the Libya’s education ministry, “most schools in Tripoli have remained open,” despite the violence.
“But that is not the case for schools in Ain Zara and Abou Slim” in the southern suburbs of the capital, he said.
These “are the areas hardest hit by the military operations,” Bader added.
“I hope that the fighting will stop soon, otherwise we will have to look for alternatives for displaced children so that they won’t have to loose their school year,” he said.
The education ministry has given time off to teachers and students for the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan which began on May 6, hoping that by the end of that period fighting will have abated.
Meanwhile, in areas of Tripoli spared by the conflict, teachers have banded together to give free remedial classes during Ramadan to students displaced by the violence.
“It is generous on their part, knowing that they have sacrificed their Ramadan holiday to help us catch up,” said Mostafa, who along with 25 other students is taking maths classes.
“We are really grateful for their help in such difficult times,” she said.
But she is still afraid that she will not get good grades in her final exams.
English teacher Gofran Ben Ayad says the impromptu teaching initiative is key for the students.
“What is remarkable is that most of these students are brilliant and have shown that despite the psychological trauma they have suffered and their forced displacement, they are still able to learn,” she said.
Ahmad Bashir said he found out about the catch-up lessons through the Internet and “didn’t waste time” in registering for classes.
“My high school — the Khaled Ben Al-Walid in Ain Zara — has been closed for six weeks, and this is a decisive year,” he said.
“I don’t know what my future will be like after this war,” added Bashir, who like Mostafa is in his last year of high school.
He hopes the education ministry “will be understanding” in the timing of end-of-year exams, and take into account the plight of displaced students.