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Houthi rebels are backing away from the threat of a tax for humanitarian aid

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The Houthi rebels in Yemen have backed away from a threat to impose a “tax” on humanitarian aid in a significant step to resolving a crisis that has threatened humanitarian aid in the country facing the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.

A UN official said in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital under the control of the Houthis, on Friday that the Houthi administration “decided at its meeting on February 12 to cancel the 2%” that the Supreme Council for the Administration and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and International Cooperation of the Houthi rebels intended to impose.

According to the official, “the abolition of the tax is definitely a positive development,” noting that there are several other issues that must be addressed, such as barriers to access and bureaucracy.

In a letter, a copy of which was shared with Agence France-Presse, the Houthi Supreme Council for Humanitarian Affairs and Coordination, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lockeq, intends to “suspend the use of 2% and not implement it for this year 2020, on the basis of finding alternative solutions that enable everyone to Fulfill its obligations. ”

The message stated, “Our eagerness to set the 2% rate was only to cover the basic expenses needed in order for us to be able to provide all assistance and facilities to the humanitarian partners.”

Yemen has been witnessing a war since 2014 between the Houthi rebels close to Iran and the forces loyal to the government of the recognized president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. The war escalated with the intervention of the Saudi-led coalition to support the government in March 2015.

More than two-thirds of the population needs help, according to the United Nations, which describes the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as the worst in the world today.

UN officials and humanitarian organizations met Thursday in Brussels to discuss the rebels ’proposal to impose a 2% tax on organizations and other obstacles.

Prior to the meeting in Brussels, the European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Leneracik, demanded that all parties to the Yemeni conflict adhere to “international humanitarian law and ensure safe access to humanitarian organizations without any obstacles.”

“It cannot continue, the largest lifeline on Earth is in danger,” Jan Egeland, secretary general of the “Norwegian High Refugee Council”, told AFP.

Egeland had spoken at the meeting called by the European Commission and the Swedish government to talk about the recent crisis in Yemen, where millions of people are at risk of starvation.

According to Egeland, “We cannot pay the donated aid money to one of the parties to the conflict,” explaining, “This is one of the many red lines we fear to cross. We cannot do that.”

– “breaking point” –

The European Commission and the Swedish government confirmed Friday in a statement that the situation in Yemen may require suspension of some aid.

“We are deeply concerned about the rapid deterioration in the humanitarian field throughout the country,” the statement said, warning that the situation had reached “the point of collapse where the delivery of vital aid was at risk.”

According to the statement, humanitarian organizations have agreed that if it becomes impossible to deliver aid without violating its principles, the response may include “redefining humanitarian aid, including reducing it or even stopping certain operations.”

In a clear reference to the Houthi rebel decision on taxes, the statement said, “The latest indication of the desire to remove restrictions on the delivery of aid on the ground must be followed up.”

The internationally recognized government of Yemen sent a warning after reports that aid could be cut.

Minister of Local Administration Abdel-Raqib Fateh, who heads the National Relief Committee, told France Press last week that although “Houthi armed militias use relief work as a cover to finance its war effort,” cutting off aid will harm the Yemeni people.

The rebels reject accusations against them of meddling in the work of humanitarian organizations and the series of bureaucratic measures imposed by the Houthi administrative authority that was established late last year.

The World Food Program, which provides food to more than 12 million people each month across Yemen, suspended aid deliveries to rebel-held areas for two months last year because of a dispute over a biometric registration system to ensure food reaches the needy families.

The Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for the Administration and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and International Cooperation of the Houthi rebels, Abdul Mohsen Tawoos, confirmed on Monday that “UN organizations play a political role and use aid as a threat card for Yemenis.”

Al-Masirah TV quoted Peacock as saying, “The method of blackmail by cutting aid does not work with the Yemenis, and if this threat continues, things will turn against them.”

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