US may remove Houthi terrorist label if attacks on ships in Red Sea stop

US may remove Houthi terrorist label if attacks on ships in Red Sea stop

The United States said it would consider revoking its recent designation of the Houthis of Yemen as terrorists, if Iranian-backed militants cease their maritime attacks in and around the Red Sea.

“My hope is that we can find diplomatic solutions,” Tim Lenderking, US special envoy, told reporters.President J.oe Biden for Yemen, in an online press conference on Wednesday. “Find ways to reduce tension and allow us to eventually withdraw the designation and, of course, end military attacks on the Houthis' military capabilities.”

Comments suggest Washington is once again relying on diplomacy after attack campaignaerial ac syes three months against Houthi installations in Yemen. They have failed to stop the group's missile and drone attacks on merchant and warships, although the United States says they have managed to degrade the Houthis' military capabilities.

When asked by Bloomberg News after the briefing whether the United States was offering the Houthis a quid pro quo to end their attacks on ships in exchange for revoking the designation, Lenderking said: ““We would certainly study that, but we wouldn't assume it's automatic.”

In mid-January, the US State Department announced that it would appoint Ansarallah, commonly known as Houthis, as a specially designated terrorist group. That was just after the United States and the United Kingdom began their joint strikes in response to the attacks on shipping.

The Houthis, an Islamist organization, began attacking ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in mid-November, apparently to pressure Israel to end its war against Hamas in Gaza. Most Western shipping companies are now avoiding the waterways, which normally account for around 30% of global container traffic. Instead, they are sending ships around the southern tip of Africa, a much longer route for ships going between Asia and Europe.

Yemeni militants say they are determined to continue their attacks. Last month, they killed three crew members of a cargo ship and sank another ship.

Lenderking spoke to reporters from Muscat, the capital of Oman. Oman hosts some of the Houthi leaders and has long been a mediator between the group and Western powers. The US envoy said he held talks with Sayyid Badr Al-Busaidi, Oman's foreign minister, after holding talks with officials in Saudi Arabia the previous day.

“We discussed measures to ensure the reduction of tension between the Houthis and renew focus on ensuring peace for the Yemeni people,” he told reporters.

He said the Houthis could “show good faith” and a “intention to reduce tension” if they released the 25 crew members of a ship called Galaxy Leader that they hijacked in November. The vehicle carrier was chartered by the Japanese company Nippon Yusen KK.

Lenderking said the de-escalation of tensions by the Houthis could help restart United Nations-brokered peace talks in Yemen, which have been frozen since Oct. 7. The country has been mired in civil war for a decade, although there has been a fragile truce since 2022.

The Houthis captured the capital Sanaa in 2014 at the start of the war and now control the key Red Sea port of Hodeida.

Saudi Arabia, which initially tried to dislodge the Houthis, wants to implement a ceasefire agreement it reached with the group last year.