US envoy to Yemen sees potential for peace in the long term, despite obstacles

US envoy to Yemen sees potential for peace in the long term, despite obstacles
2 min read
Washington, D.C.
12 May, 2023
The US special envoy to Yemen expressed cautious optimism about the long-term potential for peace amid a fragile truce and talks between the different parties.
The US State Department building in Washington, DC. [Getty]

The US special envoy to Yemen says he sees hope for peace in the long term, though he believes hurdles will be difficult to overcome.

On Thursday, Timothy A. Lenderking, US special envoy to Yemen, in a State Department briefing fielded questions from reporters about prospects for peace in Yemen and how countries in the region could play roles in sustained stability. 

Though he doesn't expect peace to break out tomorrow, Lenderking does see promise in a truce that has held since April of last year, the recent Iran-Saudi rapprochement and regional efforts to advance peace in Yemen.

"The truce and ensuring period of de-escalation have laid the foundation for the progress we now see, including the visit of Saudi and Omani delegations to Sanaa last month and the release of almost 900 detainees from all sides of the conflict," Lenderking told reporters. "We now have an opportunity to build on this progress to achieve a more durable and lasting peace." 

Live Story

He noted that the recent talks in Sanaa were important, but they are just one step towards peace. The parties, which continue to have a distrust of one another, must seize on this moment, he said. He also emphasised that, despite international efforts at ending the conflict, any durable peace would need to be Yemeni-led.

Since the conflict broke out in 2014, multiple countries have been involved, namely Saudi Arabia and Iran. With their recent rapprochement in April, there has been some hope that this will help bring stability to Yemen. Though this is no doubt helpful, Lenderking said that given the many internal divisions that exist in the country,  this is only part of the solution.

One lingering problem is the Houthis' continued detention of local Yemeni US embassy staff, 11 of whom have been held incommunicado from their families, accused of spying, which has prevented the US from reopening its mission. Despite this and other hurdles, Lenderking seems to be cautiously optimistic that the Houthis and other parties can, through careful and incremental steps, reconcile.

"I do think these two sides – particularly the Saudis – the Houthis, with support from Oman, are approaching these negotiations or discussions, I would say, not necessarily negotiations, in a very constructive manner," he said.  "And I do think that it's possible that they can make further progress."