US considers revoking Houthi terrorist designation amid Red Sea ship attacks

A Yemeni Coast Guard boat sails near the Galaxy Leader commercial ship, seized by Yemen's Houthis last month, off the coast of al-Salif, Yemen, December 5, 2023.
The US may lift the terrorist designation on Yemen's Houthis if ship attacks cease in the Red Sea, aiming for diplomatic solutions. Talks with Oman and Saudi officials indicate a desire for peace and de-escalation. The Houthis could demonstrate goodwill by releasing a kidnapped crew to restart UN peace talks in Yemen.
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The US is considering revoking its recent designation of Yemen’s Houthis as terrorists if the group stops its ship attacks in and around the Red Sea. President Joe Biden’s special envoy to Yemen, Tim Lenderking, expressed hope for finding diplomatic solutions to de-escalate the situation and eventually lift the designation, while also ending military attacks on the Houthis’ military capabilities. Despite nearly three months of airstrikes against Houthi facilities, the attacks on merchant and warships continue, prompting a re-emphasis on diplomacy.

The move to classify the Houthis as terrorists came in mid-January following joint airstrikes by the US and Britain in response to attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The attacks, allegedly aimed at pressuring Israel to end its war against Hamas in Gaza, have led Western shipping companies to avoid the waterways, affecting global container traffic. The Houthis have vowed to continue their attacks, including killing crew members and sinking ships, despite diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the situation.

US envoy Lenderking held talks with Omani officials, including the foreign minister, to discuss steps for de-escalation and peace in Yemen. He highlighted the potential for the Houthis to demonstrate goodwill by releasing kidnapped crew members and showing intent to de-escalate the conflict. Restarting UN-brokered peace talks in Yemen, which have been stalled since October, remains a priority to resolve the decade-long civil war and achieve a lasting ceasefire in the region.

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