On Friday, Riyadh witnessed separate US-Saudi talks to accelerate the unloading of the dilapidated Safer oil tanker off the western coast of Yemen, and to discuss ways to extend the armistice and the Houthis’ intransigence.
This came during separate meetings of the US Special Envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, with the UN coordinator in the country, David Gresley, a Yemeni official, and the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Muhammad bin Saeed Al Jaber, according to official sources.
And on Sunday, the US State Department announced the start of its special envoy to Yemen, an indefinite tour that includes the Sultanate of Oman and Saudi Arabia to support what it called peace efforts.
And the US State Department’s Office of Near Eastern Affairs stated, via Twitter, on Friday, that “Lenderking discussed (in Riyadh) with Gresley, the need for urgent international progress in a project to prevent the Safer oil tanker spill disaster.”
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“The two sides also discussed concerns about the Houthi restrictions on humanitarian aid in Yemen,” he added, without giving details.
And last November, Gresley announced that the emptying of the Safer oil reservoir will begin in early 2023, two months after the UN confirmed that it had received sufficient funding from donors.
Because the tank has not undergone maintenance work since 2015, crude oil and gases escaping from it have become a serious threat to the region, and the United Nations says that the ship is “a time bomb that may explode at any moment and cause a major environmental disaster affecting several countries.”
Lenderking also discussed, with Yemeni Finance Minister Salem bin Brik, in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, the Houthi attacks on oil ports in government-controlled areas, according to the same source.
“It is time to focus on de-escalation and providing economic relief to Yemenis,” the US official said, without elaborating.
In a related context, Lenderking met, in Riyadh, on Friday, with the Kingdom’s ambassador to Yemen, Muhammad bin Saeed Al Jaber, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
The meeting witnessed the discussion of “the efforts of the UN envoy to Yemen to propose an extension of the armistice, the intransigence of the Houthi militia and its rejection of the proposal, and ways to enhance cooperation to reach a political solution between all parties.”
The US envoy’s moves come as international efforts continue to extend a truce that lasted for 6 months and ended on October 2, and the government and the Houthis exchange accusations about responsibility for the failure to extend it.
After the truce ended, the Houthis began escalating their attacks against oil facilities located in government-controlled areas to prevent them from exporting crude.
For 8 years, Yemen has been witnessing a war between the forces loyal to the legitimate government, supported by an Arab military coalition led by neighboring Saudi Arabia, and the Iranian-backed Houthis, who have controlled provinces, including the capital, Sana’a, since September 2014.