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Dingell, Pocan Lead Letter Urging State Department to Help Lift Saudi Blockade of Yemen

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12) and Congressman Mark Pocan (WI-02) led 38 of their colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the United States to use the full weight of its diplomatic resources and leverage with the Saudi regime to lift the blockade of Yemen’s ports and support diplomatic engagement on addressing other critical needs contributing to the humanitarian crisis in the country.

“In light of the fragility of the truce and the critical importance of mitigating Yemen's deep humanitarian catastrophe, we urge you to maintain pressure on the Saudi-led coalition to eliminate unnecessary restrictions on commercial trade, travel, or other actions that harm the prospects for humanitarian relief and peace in Yemen,” the lawmakers write. “The World Bank and Save the Children have reported that the blockade has significantly contributed to rising food prices and hampered access to clean drinking water, humanitarian aid, and life-saving medical services.”

“However, these early steps to mitigate the worst excesses of the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade remain woefully inadequate in the face of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and are in danger of being reversed if the truce is not extended and expanded,” the lawmakers continue. “Restrictions on humanitarian and commercial imports continue to contribute to the dire situation in the country. Numerous Members of Congress, including members of both parties, have called on the Administration to publicly pressure Saudi Arabia to lift the blockade in Yemen and decouple it from broader political negotiations, citing humanitarian concerns and the need to de-escalate the conflict.  Given the outsized human impact of this conflict, it is vital that this position remain a priority for the Administration.”

“Accordingly, we respectfully request that you use US leverage and relationships with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Yemen’s PLC to fully lift the blockade — decoupled from the larger conflict — and maintain unity that will best support efforts towards an expanded truce, and ultimately, the end to the Saudi-led war in Yemen through a sustainable, inclusive peace in the country,” the lawmakers conclude. “We urge you to make clear to the Saudi-led coalition that bicameral war powers resolutions have been introduced and that Congress will not hesitate to act in support of the administration policy of ending support for offensive military operations by statutorily prohibiting US participation in any renewed airstrikes or other military action inside of Yemen.”

The letter is also endorsed by Demand Progress Educational Fund, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), Just Foreign Policy, Yemeni Alliance Committee, Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation,,, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Libertarian Institute, Project Break the Cycle, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, Action Corps, Peace Action, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), American Friends Service Committee, Environmentalists Against War, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR).

"The Saudi imposed blockade is the main contributor to the spread of starvation and diseases and is considered a war crime. The Yemeni people should not be held hostage to peace negotiations or the truce. The blockade should be lifted unconditionally," said Dr. Aisha Jumaan, President of Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation.

"This important letter — alongside the more than 120 cosponsors on House and Senate war powers resolutions — sends a clear signal to the Saudi and UAE regimes that Congress will stand firm against their war and blockade that harms tens of millions of innocent Yemenis," said Erik Sperling, executive director of the advocacy organization Just Foreign Policy. "Nearly eight years into this war, it is past time for the Saudi-led military coalition to unconditionally end their blockade and military aggression, and finally respect the sovereignty of their southern neighbor. Peace-loving people in the US and Yemen are so grateful to Rep. Dingell, Rep. Pocan, and the hundreds of members of Congress who have signed letters and voted to end US participation in the horrific Saudi-led war and blockade."

“While the progress made during the fragile Yemen truce is welcome news, the Saudi blockade on Yemen continues to be a key driver of the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe,” said Hassan El-Tayyab, Legislative Director for Middle East Policy at Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). “Saudi Arabia’s tactic of collective punishment has created untold suffering for tens of millions of people and contributed to hundreds of thousands of deaths. The Biden administration must take urgent action to compel Saudi Arabia to completely lift this blockade as a humanitarian act, for the sake of millions of Yemenis in desperate need.”

"The US has a moral and political obligation to use any and all points of leverage with Saudi Arabia to end their collective punishment of Yemenis via the blockade, especially as we still maintain the backbone of their offensive military capabilities," said Cavan Kharrazian, Policy Advisor at Demand Progress. "The continued subservience to Saudi Arabia's disastrous foreign policy and complicity in human rights abuses against the Yemeni people is a dark stain on the US's reputation and credibility. We are going on 8 years of fueling this war and humanitarian disaster. Enough is enough."

“The humanitarian blockade and lack of freedom of movement in Yemen is endangering communities across the country and undermining the truce and long-term prospects for peace,” said Diana Duarte, Director of Policy and Strategic Engagement at MADRE. “In spite of the truce, the Saudi-led blockade is still endangering Yemeni lives by keeping people from seeking medical attention abroad, preventing fuel from getting to healthcare facilities and emergency services, and driving a food crisis that is pushing communities into famine and causing violent conflict for scarce resources. Yemeni women community leaders are building peace at the local and global levels, but with the blockade still in place, their work faces constant setbacks. As a historic accomplice to the Saudi-led blockade, the US must use diplomatic pressure to ensure that the blockade is lifted, that freedom of movement is protected by all parties to the conflict, and that the conditions of the truce are fully implemented on the path towards an enduring, inclusive peace.”

View the full text of the letter here

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