United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric warned during a 11 January briefing that the US intention to brand Yemen’s Houthi movement as a terrorist organization is “likely to have serious humanitarian and political repercussions.”
He called on the US to “swiftly grant the necessary licenses and exemptions to ensure that principled humanitarian assistance can continue to reach all people [...] without disruption.”
According to the official, the UN is “concerned that the designation may have a detrimental impact on efforts to resume the political process in Yemen, as well as to polarize even more the positions of the parties to the conflict.”
Earlier, a number of US lawmakers opposed the State Department initiative to classify the Houthis as a terror group. The chairman of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Gregory Meeks, called for “a speedy reversal” of the outgoing US administration’s decision due to it being, as he described it, “short-sighted”.
"No solution in Yemen will be sustainable unless the Houthis are involved. By designating the Houthi organization as a foreign terrorist organization, the Trump Administration is only pushing a political solution to the conflict further out of reach,” Meeks said.
According to Meeks, the designation could also complicate international humanitarian and environmental efforts in the war-torn country, including repairs of the FSO Safer tanker, which has been moored off the coast of Yemen since 2015 and is at risk of leaking or exploding.
The leader of the Yemen Houthi movement, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, said on Monday that the Yemeni people “don’t care about any designation”, as the US administration is a “partner in killing Yemenis and starving them”.
“We reserve the right to respond to any designation issued by the Trump administration or any administration,” he replied.
Earlier on Sunday, Pompeo said that the US State Department would notify Congress of its intention to designate the Houthi opposition faction as a terrorist organization and brand three of its leaders - Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi and Abdullah Yahya al Hakim - as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
The ongoing conflict in Yemen
The Houthi movement, concentrated mainly in the north of Yemen opposes the current Yemeni government. An open conflict erupted in 2014 when mass demonstration against the president, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, occurred in some Yemeni regions as protesters seized key government facilities. Hadi was forced to flee to the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
The Yemeni conflict is now one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world. According to the UN, over 24 million Yemenis, roughly 80% of the country's population, in the middle of a war and a pandemic, are in need of humanitarian assistance as the number of people that have been forced to leave their home exceeds 3 million.