Iran-Saudi reconciliation not enough to end war in Yemen: US envoy
Iran and Saudi Arabia in March signed an agreement brokered by China to restore their severed diplomatic ties. Many hailed the deal and expressed hope that it could bring about peace in Yemen, which has been torn apart by war between the Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemeni government forces and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels for almost a decade.
"Anything that de-escalates regional tensions is something that the United States supports," Lenderking said of the reconciliation at a press briefing.
"The Saudi-Iran agreement alone will not bring peace to Yemen... the Yemen conflict is about more than just Saudi Arabia and Iran," he said, citing "internal tensions and divisions" as another cause for the war.
A UN-brokered truce between the Saudi-led forces and the Houthis was agreed upon in April 2022 and twice renewed, with US backing. The truce brought respite from much of the fighting and allowed desperately needed humanitarian aid to move in.
The deal last expired in October 2022, and though the situation in Yemen remains what Lenderking called "truce-like", the ceasefire has not yet been successfully renewed.
Even so, there have been talks between Saudi and Houthi officials, and last month an exchange and release of several hundred prisoners held by the Houthis and Saudis was completed.
Lenderking expressed cautious hope that a deal to bring lasting peace to Yemen would eventually be reached.
"We’re optimistic that all parties are approaching negotiations in a serious manner, I think evidenced by the lack of major military escalation the prisoner releases, and other confidence-building measures," Lenderking said.
"I don’t think we’re near the finish line yet. There are great challenges ahead, I think there is still a considerable amount of distrust among the parties, and there is considerable division within the Yemeni parties themselves. These elements I think have to be addressed."
Though Iran has publicly backed the Saudi-Houthi agreement, Lenderking said the US needed to see this substantially proven.
"Many people are sharing with us that in their conversations with Iran, that Iran is supportive of a political process in Yemen.
"We want to see that borne out in fact, and we do not want to see a continuation of the smuggling and violation of the UN Security Council resolutions which characterise the previous seven years of engagement on Yemen."
The US has accused Iran of smuggling weapons to the Houthis, in violation of a UN arms embargo meant to help end fighting that has directly or indirectly seen hundreds of thousands of people lose their lives.