Frankly speaking: “Not convinced that there is a good argument” to remove the Houthis from terrorist list, says Saudi diplomat Abdallah Al-Moualimi

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is “not convinced” by the arguments put forward by the administration of US President Joe Biden to keep the Houthis of Yemen off the list of international terrorist organizations, the Kingdom’s ambassador told the ‘UN at Arab News.

Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, said he had raised the issue with US diplomats in New York following President Biden’s decision last year to withdraw the backed militia by Iran from the list.

“They explained to us that the reason they did it is purely technical, because they have staff in Yemen who work with humanitarian organizations and Yemenis who also work with these organizations and they said if the Houthis were designated as a terrorist organization, the Yemeni parties would not be able to deal with them, and this would endanger the life and security of the American parties, ”he said.

“We are not entirely convinced that there is a good argument,” he added.

Al-Mouallimi, who has led the Saudi mission to the UN since 2011, commented on the burning issue of the terrorist status of the Houthis in an interview on Frankly Speaking, the series of video interviews with key policymakers. .

He also spoke of the “intractable” nature of the conflict in Yemen, Iran’s role in igniting hostilities there, the possibility of Saudi Arabia normalizing its relations with Israel and the Kingdom’s progress in human rights. of humans over the past decade.

He pledged to continue to work with US diplomats and others on the issue of naming terrorism. Former President Trump put the Houthis on the list towards the end of his administration, only for new President Biden to remove them immediately – on the same day, the Iran-backed Houthis attacked a civilian airport in Abha in Saudi Arabia.

“We need to do more to present the facts as they are. We have tried to do it, but we need even more effort in this direction. In addition, there are those in the UN or the Security Council who are reluctant to proceed with the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization for various reasons.

“We must overcome these reservations and we must be able to demonstrate that this designation will not interfere with the delivery and delivery of humanitarian aid and humanitarian goods and services,” he said.

He called on the UN to take action to stop the flow of arms and ammunition from Iran to Yemen. “What the UN should do more is tighten the grip on supply routes to Yemen, especially the sea routes that have been used to smuggle arms and ammunition into Yemen,” did he declare.

The five permanent members of the Security Council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – must provide the UN with the means to ban the flow of Iranian arms, he said. -He insists.

Al-Mouallami also accused Tehran of “playing games” with Arab diplomats in various rounds of talks taking place in the Middle East. “There were talks in Baghdad under the auspices of the Iraqi government, but no major results were achieved there. The Iranians are taking a long-term stance on these talks. We’re not interested in chats for chats or for photo opportunities, ”he said.

One of the big issues of his decade as Ambassador to the UN has been the future of Palestine, highlighted by the initiatives of some Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel. He defused speculation that the Kingdom could be on the verge of re-establishing relations with Tel Aviv.

“The latest official Saudi position is that we are ready to normalize relations with Israel as soon as Israel implements the elements of the Saudi peace initiative that was presented in 2002. This calls for an end to the occupation of all the Arab territories occupied in 1967 and the creation of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and the granting to the Palestinian people of the right to self-determination, ”he declared.

“As soon as that happened, not only Saudi Arabia, but the entire Muslim world, the 57 countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, would follow suit in recognizing the State of Israel and establishing relations with her, ”he added.

“The weather does not change well or badly. The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is bad, no matter how long it lasts. Israeli practices in the West Bank and Gaza – with regard to the settlements and the siege and with regard to the denial of Palestinians of their dignity and rights – are bad, and that is not changing, ”Al-Mouallimi insisted. .

Saudi Arabia served two five-year terms on the UN Human Rights Council in the decade through 2020, and the ambassador praised the Kingdom’s record in advancing the cause of the human rights.

“In Saudi Arabia, we have made progress in our commitment to all human rights and the rule of law, to participation in international treaties and agreements. Externally, we are committed to cooperate and work with other countries to achieve the lofty goals of the human rights body. We have therefore proven that we are a committed member of the Human Rights Council, ”he said.

The Kingdom’s major reforms in recent years – such as allowing women to drive, changing guardianship laws and fostering greater religious tolerance – have not had the recognition they deserve in the outside world, he said. he declares.

“I think many in the international community see them as insufficient, or not far enough, or they probably don’t think we’ve gone as far as we have already. That is why we encourage Westerners to come and visit us – by opening visas, opening tourism and opening official delegations in and out of other countries, ”Al-Mouallimi said.

But he warned that parts of the international media would continue to project a negative image. “I think there are some circles that look for negative coverage just because it suits their agenda, their wants and their goals. But overall, the international community and the international media will be able to report on a positive image once they see it, ”he said.

On two other issues that are high on the UN’s global agenda – climate change and the response to the pandemic – he said Saudi Arabia is playing a leadership role.

“Saudi Arabia has played a leading role, especially when it chaired the G20, in allocating funds and allocating vaccines to developing countries. We have paid over $ 500 million on our own and we continue to provide hundreds of millions of additional dollars, in cash and in kind, to developing countries in various parts of the world, ”he said.

Al-Mouallimi highlighted the role of the recent Saudi Green Initiative in helping address the challenge of global warming, but said major polluting countries like China, India and the United States must make real commitments to reduce emissions if the world wanted to resist chances of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“Saudi Arabia has come forward for the first time with very ambitious carbon emissions targets … and we hope that will set the world an example of a country dependent on carbon energy but nonetheless ready. to make the commitments he had made. for the benefit of the global environment, ”he said.

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