US Yemen envoy urges response on ceasefire plan with Houthis

The Houthis are pushing towards the gas-rich region of Marib, the government’s last stronghold in northern Yemen.

Video Transcript

- The US-backed bombing of Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its allies has already created the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Now as Houthi rebels attempt to solidify their position in the north, the United Nations is warning of even worse to come.

STEPHANIE DUJARRIC: The violence has forced up to 15,000 people to flee since early February. Roughly 60% of them are reportedly residing in informal settlements and crowded sites where services are overstretched.

More than 20 million people, 20.7 to be more exact, need humanitarian assistance. Many of them are at the brink of starvation.

- Speaking in Washington, the US's envoy, Tim Lenderking, says the Saudis support what he calls his sound plan for a ceasefire, but feels that Houthis are prioritizing taking the government's last area of control in the north, the province of Marib.

TIM LENDERKING: We urged the Houthis to respond. That's why I was in the region for these last two weeks. And I will return immediately when the Houthis are prepared to talk.

- The World Food Program agrees a ceasefire is key.

DAVID BEASLEY: We could then scale up biometrics in a significant way, which will allow us to put more liquidity into the economy, which will drive the real value back up, which will allow food prices to stabilize more.

- But the Houthi say the ceasefire proposal fails to address the economic blockade that's led to such hardship.

MOHAMED ABDEL SALAM: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

INTERPRETER: The American proposal does not stop the siege or the fighting. However, it represents cosmetic understanding to bring back the siege. What the American envoy presented is a conspiracy to put Yemen in a more dangerous state than the current one.

- And the UN reports that in fact, the siege is tightening.

STEPHANIE DUJARRIC: Last month, no commercial fuel imports were allowed through Hudaydah port. That's zero. In recent years, more than half of commercial fuel imports had been coming through Hudaydah. This is the first time since the escalation of the conflict in 2015 that we've seen the level drop to zero. This is driving shortages and price rises.

- The Biden administration is, however, placing the blame for the impasse on the Houthis, and the US military is reported to be increasing its assistance to the Saudis, claiming such help is defensive and not offensive in nature. [INAUDIBLE] Al Jazeera.