Four oil tankers were rarely allowed by Yemen’s internationally recognized government – backed by Saudi Arabia and its military – to call between March 31 and April 8. But humanitarian agencies in Yemen have told CNN that the fuel is not close enough to provide aid to millions of people in the north of the country, where hunger has come. There have been no indications from the government or Saudi Arabia that it plans to allow the other 1
The letter, signed by prominent Democrats such as House Intelligence President Adam Schiff of California, Judiciary President Jerry Nadler of New York and several members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, specifically calls on Biden to “publicly press” the Saudi regime to end the blockade.
“This must include ensuring that humanitarian and commercial imports enter Yemen freely; entrust security oversight to the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM); fully allow flights to and from Sana’a airport and ensure that crossings for commercial and civilian traffic is opened permanently, ”reads the letter.
In response to the CNN report, Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat said the country would accept a UN-backed proposal to end the conflict in Yemen. The proposal will include a ceasefire and an end to the blockade. It was the first time that the Saudi government had acknowledged the existence of a blockade of any kind. The Houthi and Yemeni governments have not yet accepted the UN proposals.
Saudi Arabia has waged a six-year war in Yemen against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who drove the internationally recognized government out of Sana’a in 2015. The conflict has become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The Foreign Ministry has expressed optimism that some fuel vessels have been able to dock in Yemeni ports, but has made it clear that this is only part of the problem. The department remains concerned that the resources coming into the country are not sufficient for the needs of the population.
“The free flow of fuel and other essential commodities to and throughout Yemen is essential to support the delivery of humanitarian aid and other important activities,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price said on March 24. “The United States appreciates this decision by the Government of the Republic of Yemen. The fuel must immediately go to the Yemeni markets to run hospitals, ensure food supply and access to water and generally help alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people. “
The members of Congress make it clear in their letter that they want the blockade removed in its entirety.
They are concerned that the situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate. In their letter, lawmakers cite that about 16 million people are at risk of starvation due to the blockade. A group of Yemeni Americans from Michigan have been on hunger strike in solidarity with the Yemenis. Their efforts encouraged their congresswoman, Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell, to sign the letter.
“Ending US support for Saudi offensive operations in Yemen alone is not enough if we allow the blockade to continue. It is expected that 400,000 Yemeni children under the age of 5 could die of starvation this year if this blockade continues – it must be lifted now, Said Dingell. “That is why today I was proud to lead my colleagues to pressure the Biden-Harris administration to use its leverage to end this blockade. With a large Yemeni community in Michigan’s 12th District, I continue to see firsthand the pain and destruction our neighbors caused. as they have lost family and friends to this war and the subsequent humanitarian crisis that it has caused. ”
The group on hunger strike, which was set up in front of the White House on Tuesday and was visited by rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat.
The Biden administration ended support for all Saudi-led offensive operations earlier this year. CNN has reached out to the White House for its response to the letter.
A gathering of 70 national organizations sent Biden a similar letter with a plea to put pressure on the Saudi government. The signatories to this letter include several prominent celebrities who had joined Biden’s presidential campaign, such as actors Mark Ruffalo, Amy Schumer and Alyssa Milano.
CNN’s Maegan Vazquez and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.