The United States government’s decision to designate Ansar Allah, more commonly known as the Houthi rebel group in Yemen, as terrorists, is likely to have “serious humanitarian and political repercussions”, the UN spokesperson said on Monday.
The decision over the designation was announced by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who issued a statement on Sunday saying that his aim was to hold what he described as the “deadly Iran backed militia group” accountable for attacks that have threatened civilians, infrastructure and shipping. Mr. Pompeo referenced the 30 December attack on Aden Airport, which killed at least 26 people and injured more than 50.
The US chief diplomat will present his plan to Congress on 19 January and, if the US follows through on his threat, imports of food, and other essential items, could be negatively impacted, at a time when more Yemenis are starving, Stephane Dujarric, the UN spokesperson warned, briefing correspondents at UN Headquarters on Monday.
Mr. Pompeo’s statement on Sunday acknowledged concerns that the designations would have an “impact on the humanitarian situation in Yemen”, adding that the US would put in place measures to reduce their impact.
Peace process and aid supplies at risk
Mr. Dujarric called for the US to ensure that licenses and exemptions are granted, so that humanitarian assistance continues to reach the people who need it, and the private sector can continue to function, in order to stave off complete economic collapse and large-scale famine.
The huge humanitarian operation in the country – the largest in the world – cannot replace the private sector or compensate for major drops in commercial imports, declared the UN official.
The political process in Yemen also risks being destabilized as a result of the terrorist designation, continued Mr. Dujarric, and the positions of the opposing sides in the conflict that has riven the country since 2015, could become even more polarized.
According to figures released by the UN in December, more than 230,000 Yemenis have died due to the war, mostly because of a lack of food, health services and infrastructure.
Mr. Dujarric pledged that the UN will continue to work with all parties to “resume and continue an inclusive political process to reach a comprehensive negotiated settlement to end the conflict”.