Four oil tankers received rare permission from Yemen’s internationally recognized government – backed by Saudi Arabia and its military – to dock between March 31 and April 8. But humanitarian organizations in Yemen have told CNN that the fuel is nowhere near enough to deliver aid to millions of people in the north of the country, where famine has arrived. There is no indication from the government or Saudi Arabia that they intend to dock the other 10 ships.
The letter, signed by prominent Democrats such as House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York and several members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, specifically calls on Biden to “publicly pressure” the Saudi regime to bring about the block.
This should include ensuring that humanitarian and commercial imports can enter Yemen freely; entrust security oversight to the United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM); fully allowing flights to and from Sana’a Airport; and ensure that crossings are permanently open to commercial and civil traffic, ”the letter reads.
In response to the CNN report, Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat said the country would agree to a UN-backed proposal to end the conflict in Yemen. The proposal includes a ceasefire and the end of the blockade. It was the first time that the Saudi government recognized that a blockade of any kind existed. The governments of Houthi and Yemen have yet to agree to the UN proposals.
Saudi Arabia has waged a six-year war in Yemen against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who expelled the internationally recognized government from Sana’a in 2015. The conflict has become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The State Department has expressed optimism that some fuel ships 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 entering the country are not sufficient to meet the needs of the population.
“The free flow of fuel and other essential goods to and through Yemen is critical to support the delivery of humanitarian aid and other essential activities,” said Ned Price, State Department spokesman on March 24. “The United States appreciates this decision of the Republic of Yemen. Government of Yemen. The fuel must go to Yemeni markets without delay to power hospitals, ensure the supply of food and access to water, and generally reduce the suffering of the Yemeni people to help enlighten. “
Members of Congress make it clear in their letter that they want to lift the blockade in its entirety.
They are concerned that the situation in Yemen will continue to deteriorate. In their letter, lawmakers cite estimates that about 16 million people are at risk of starvation as a result of the blockade. A group of Yemeni Americans from Michigan has been on a hunger strike in solidarity with the Yemenis. Their efforts encouraged their congressman, Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell, to sign the letter.
“Ending US support for Saudi Arabia-led 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. Must be lifted now, “Dingell said.” That’s why I was proud today to lead my colleagues in pressuring the Biden-Harris administration to use its power to end this blockade. With a large Yemeni community in Michigan’s 12th district, I continue to see firsthand the pain and devastation that our neighbors have caused for losing family and friends through this war and the subsequent humanitarian crisis it created. ”
The hunger strike group set up in front of the White House on Tuesday and was visited by Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota.
The Biden government ended support for all offensive operations led by Saudi Arabia earlier this year. CNN has contacted the White House for its response to the letter.
A collection of 70 national organizations sent Biden a similar letter calling for pressure to be put on the Saudi government. Among the signatories to that letter are several prominent celebrities who had supported 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.