Lawmakers to Saudi, UAE ambassadors: Lift Yemen blockade immediately

Lawmakers to Saudi, UAE ambassadors: Lift Yemen blockade immediately
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A bipartisan quartet of lawmakers is imploring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to end a blockade on war-ravaged Yemen.

“Our countries have long been allies and partners, and it is with that history in mind that we write to raise a critical and urgent concern: put simply, the humanitarian status quo in Yemen cannot continue,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter Wednesday night to the Saudi and UAE ambassadors to the U.S. and obtained by The Hill.

“We implore your governments to immediately develop and implement a humanitarian plan of action that will end the blockade of Yemen, provide for humanitarian and commercial access to all of Yemen’s seaports, airports, and land crossings — including Hudaydah port, Sana’a airport, and other points of entry not under the Hadi government’s authority,” they wrote.

The letter was organized by Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotHouse passes resolution calling for release of Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar This week: Lawmakers return to mourn George H.W. Bush Let’s fund clean energy, not a border wall  MORE (R-Ohio), who are members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and co-signed by Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission co-chairmen Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Randy HultgrenRandall (Randy) Mark HultgrenIllinois New Members 2019 Republicans must learn from the election mistake on immigration Newly elected Dems downplay midterms results as referendum on Trump MORE (R-Ill.).

In March 2015, a Saudi Arabia-led coalition that includes the UAE intervened in Yemen's civil war, in which Iran-backed Houthi rebels are fighting against the internationally recognized government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The war had already taken a large toll on impoverished Yemen. It escalated recently after Saudi Arabia imposed a blockade in response to the Houthi rebels firing a missile on Riyadh and the Houthis killed their one-time ally, former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll The Memo: Cohen fans flames around Trump Memo Comey used to brief Trump on dossier released: report MORE has called on Saudi Arabia to lift the blockade, and the White House has urged all parties to cease hostilities.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia announced it would reopen the port of Hudaydah for 30 days to allow aid into Yemen.

The lawmakers in their letter said that’s not enough.

The “size and pace of these gestures are not proportionate to the emergency on the ground,” they wrote. “The rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen puts millions of civilian lives at risk of starvation and disease, and it also threatens regional stability and damages the long-term national security interests of our great nations.”

In addition to the immediate need to lift the blockade, the lawmakers asked Saudi Arabia and the UAE to facilitate the delivery and installation of four cranes for Hudaydah that the U.S. financed last year; eliminate restrictions on all ships bound for Hudaydah and other Yemeni ports that have been cleared by the U.N. Verification and Inspection Mechanism; allow both humanitarian and most commercial flights to the capital of Sanaa, except for Iranian air carriers and others with a track record of facilitating the movement of Iranian personnel; agree to the pre-positioning of a World Food Program vessel off Aden; and work with the international community to prevent the diversion of humanitarian assistance and associated commercial goods.

“Unless a humanitarian plan of action is implemented immediately — including ending restrictions on vessels carrying fuel and commercial goods that are essential to the humanitarian response,” they wrote, “millions of Yemeni civilians could die from famine.”