Sun - 14 Feb 2021 - 11:52 PM ،،،

 UK Minister for Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly has urged the Houthis to renounce conflict and violence and engage in meaningful negotiations for a political solution to end the war in Yemen.

In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Cleverly confirmed that the UK has held direct conversations with the Houthis, and has stressed the importance of a number of issues, including renouncing violence, engaging with the political peace process, ensuring that there is access to the Safer oil tanker, and the release of a British national who is being held in Yemen.

He also welcomed the US administration decision to lift the designation of Houthis as a terrorist organization, starting this Tuesday, for humanitarian reasons.

“We were concerned when the previous US Administration designated the Houthis as a terrorist organization. We were very concerned that that would make humanitarian support going into Yemen harder. And we communicated our concerns to both the Trump and the Biden administrations, and we enjoy very good relationships with both", he explained.

“I'm pleased that the designation has been lifted for humanitarian reasons. But we are still deeply opposed to the Houthis aggressive actions. We've seen attacks on Aden airport, and attacks going into Saudi Arabia”, he added.

The Minister reiterated that his country’s message to the Houthis “is very clear, and it is that they need to step away from violence. They need to engage with a political process, and they need to work with (UN envoy) Martin Griffiths and the United Nations to find a sustainable peaceful solution, and they have to step away from conflict and violence”.

The conflict in Yemen has dragged on for many years, “and we've seen that the people of Yemen have suffered. I don't think anybody wants to see an escalation of the conflict. Therefore, we should pursue a political solution. The attacks are incredibly counterproductive and incredibly frustrating. And the international community has rightly called out the Houthis for the attacks that they have made”, Cleverly noted.

Direct talks

Referring to the UK’s efforts to reach a political solution in Yemen, Cleverly said: “We engage with all parties with interest in Yemen, including Saudi Arabia of course, the government of Yemen, and indeed with the Houthis directly. And we always made it clear that a political negotiated solution is the right way forward. There cannot be a military conclusion to this. It has to be done through negotiation. And we push very hard the Houthis to engage in meaningful negotiations”.

Cleverly also mentioned that he had “direct conversations with representatives of the Houthis. And we stress the importance of a number of issues, including renouncing violence and engaging with the political peace process, and ensuring that there is access to the Safer oil tanker, as well as the release of a British national who is being held in Yemen”.

The Minister highlighted that “we speak frankly and honestly with them. And we made it clear that the UK expects that they engage with the political process and renounce violence, because there cannot be a military solution to this conflict which has dragged on for years and years”.