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Biden expected to name veteran diplomat as special envoy for Yemen: Report

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Biden pledged during the 2020 presidential campaign that he would curtail US support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen.

Reuters, Washington

PUBLISHED ON FEB 04, 2021 10:42 PM IST

US President Joe Biden was expected to announce on Thursday the appointment of a veteran U.S diplomat as his special envoy for Yemen, a person familiar with the issue said, indicating a more active US role in efforts to end that country’s civil war.

Biden was expected to name Timothy Lenderking for the new post in a foreign policy speech, said the source on condition of anonymity. Lenderking’s expected appointment was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Lenderking has extensive experience dealing with Yemen and the Gulf. He has been the deputy assistant secretary of State for Gulf affairs and served in the US Embassy in Riyadh.

Yemen’s civil war pits the internationally recognized government against the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement. The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, including large numbers of civilians, and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

A Saudi-led coalition intervened in March 2015 on the side of the government and enjoyed the backing of the former Trump administration, with the war increasingly seen as a proxy conflict between the United States and Iran.

But the mounting civilian death toll and growing humanitarian calamity – the United Nations estimates that 80 percent of Yemen’s 24 million people are in need – fueled bipartisan demands for an end to US support for Riyadh.

Biden pledged during the 2020 presidential campaign that he would curtail US support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen.

The United Nations has been struggling to broker peace talks between the government and the Houthis, an effort that Lenderking likely would be tasked to boost.

Biden’s decision to name a special envoy comes as the State Department reviews a Trump administration designation last month of the Iran-aligned Houthi group as a foreign terrorist organization.

The United States last week approved all transactions involving Yemen’s Houthi movement for the next month as it carries out the review. But the United Nations is still hearing concerns that companies are planning to cancel or suspend business with Yemen despite the move.

The United Nations and aid groups have called the designation to be reversed, warning it would push Yemen into a large-scale famine.

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