LONDON: The US envoy to Yemen called on donor countries to “step up” contributions at an upcoming pledging conference, hosted by the Biden administration in New York in September.
“The UN is in constant need of financial support to carry out any programs that it does that really make a difference inside Yemen, including feeding people who would otherwise starve, working on sanitation, improving distribution networks, rehabilitating ports, a lot of this is being done with international funding, so that funding has got to increase,” Tim Lenderking said during an interview with Yemeni American News.
He said since the conflict began, the US has provided more than $3.6 billion. USAID last week announced an additional $165 million in humanitarian assistance.
“Compared to the needs, it’s a small amount but this is going to be a collective effort and so we need other countries to step up,” Lenderking said during a visit to Michigan where he also met with Yemeni-American community members.
Most of the additional aid is going to the World Food Programme to bring immediate relief to Yemeni people, while some of it will also go toward COVID-19 relief.
“COVID is a serious problem in Yemen...it’s under reported, it needs to be addressed by the authorities in Yemen, it’s a serious problem, and it’s only compounding the other humanitarian challenges that exist,” Lenderking said.
He also said most of their funding does not go to the Yemeni government or the Iran-backed Houthi militia, but does help support programs and NGO’s operating in “hot areas of Yemen that are controlled by the Houthis,” adding: “This should not be political, this is money that’s going to help people who need it.”
Lenderking said that the US is open to dialogue with any party in Yemen except those whom it has designated as terrorist organizations.
“Our interests as to ensure Al-Qaeda (and Daesh) do not regain a foothold inside Yemen” and expand their presence or have outsiders play a role in exacerbating or extending the civil war.
“I could also mention the very negative role that Iran plays in the conflict,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for Iran to show a new face to the region and to the world by engaging in a constructive way in Yemen rather than fueling the conflict.”
Listen to #USEnvoyYemen Lenderking share highlights of his trip to Michigan and answer questions about U.S. commitment to end the conflict in #Yemen during an interview with the Yemeni American Newspaper @yamericannet https://t.co/W5DHoNkjXk
— U.S. State Dept - Near Eastern Affairs (@StateDept_NEA) August 18, 2021
Lenderking said the main thing that the US administration is doing is to try to create “a sense that peace in Yemen is possible.” Asides from ending the war, which is their main objective, Washington is also focusing on humanitarian assistance, implementing a nationwide cease-fire, opening ports and airports and lifting the remaining restrictions to improve the lives of the Yemeni people, he added.
“We know that the situation is urgent, there are people dying on a daily basis, it’s a tragic situation,” he said, adding that his appointment as envoy by US President Joe Biden in February and his announcement that Yemen was a foreign policy priority was “a big deal.”
Since then, he said the Yemeni crisis has gained momentum and “there is an international consensus about the urgency of ending the war that did not exist before January.”
He said there has been significant development in the UN’s peace plan and that the appointment of new UN envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg is going to add further momentum.
“We are trying to bring the influence we have and you will see more pressure exerted by us on the parties moving forward and it will drive an international resolution to the conflict,” he said.
The US wants to see Yemen back as a fully functioning part of the Arabian peninsula and a source of stability for the region, he said, expressing hope that the US can reopen its embassy in Sanaa in the near future. He also said that the US hopes people will come to appreciate Yemen for its rich culture and heritage and beauty and not associate it with war.