Blinken spoke on Wednesday to the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany and Israel, following calls late Tuesday to his counterparts in Canada, Mexico, Japan and South Korea.
Appearing in the press briefing room, which had been rarely used during the Trump administration, Blinken pledged to respect and be accessible to journalists and to restore the State Department’s daily press briefings beginning next week.
On policy matters, Blinken said he was particularly concerned by the “foreign terrorist organization” designation for the Iran-backed Houthis that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced just 10 days before the end of the Trump administration. Many fear that move, which comes with strict U.S. sanctions, will unnecessarily exacerbate what is already one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
Of all the steps that Trump and Pompeo took in their waning days “that’s the priority in my book,” Blinken said of the designation. “We’re taking a very urgent and a very close look at that.” The Treasury Department has already moved to suspend some of the sanctions affiliated with the designation, but aid groups say that mass famine could result if they are not all lifted.
The pause in the arms sales to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which were announced just days after the Nov. 6 election that Trump lost to now-President Joe Biden, is also related to Yemen. Critics fear the two Arab nations may use advanced U.S. weaponry to continue the Saudi-led war in Yemen with a significant risk of civilian casualties. The department billed the temporary suspension, which includes a halt to a $23 billion transfer of stealth F-35 fighters to the UAE, as “a routine administrative action” for a new administration.
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