AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s internationally recognized government has backed a call by Saudi Arabia for the international community to designate the Iran-backed Houthi movement as a terrorist organization, which it said should be punished for impeding peace initiatives.

The government said that since the Houthis took control of the country by force in late 2014, they have rejected all efforts to end the war in the country, including a plan proposed by Saudi Arabia last year.

This month, the group refused to renew a UN-brokered truce that had been in place for six months. They have planted thousands of landmines, ruthlessly suppress residents of the areas under their control, and have abducted hundreds of Yemeni citizens, including women.

“The Houthi militias have caused the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, in addition to the millions of dead, injured and displaced people, and committed war crimes and egregious human rights violations. They should be swiftly classified as terrorist organizations,” the Yemeni government said in a statement carried by SABA, the official Yemen News Agency.

On Tuesday, the Saudi Cabinet reiterated its support for the efforts of the international community to bring peace to Yemen and urged the world to designate the Houthis as a terrorist organization and take action to cut off its sources of funding.

In Yemen, government officials and others who support of the call for a terrorist designation argue that the international community, having exhausted all other options in the efforts to persuade the Houthis to embrace peace, should be more aware than ever of the true nature of the group as a result of their refusal to renew the truce.

The potential effects such a designation would have on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the distribution of aid is the only thing preventing the world from designating the Houthis as terrorists, they said.

Najeeb Ghallab, an undersecretary in Yemen’s Information Ministry, told Arab News that the international community, and the UN in particular, should strive to use the terrorist designation to motivate the Houthis to actively engage and comply with efforts to end the conflict.

“To convince the Houthis to accept peace, the international community must exert significant pressure — and designation will be a powerful instrument for pressure,” he said.

As long as the Houthis continue to refuse to accept peace proposals and work toward ending the conflict, the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen will only get worse, Ghallab added.

“Weakening and pushing this movement to embrace peace will help to alleviate Yemen’s humanitarian situation, which the Houthis exploit and fuel,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni government joined other nations in urging the Houthis to free Yemeni employees of the US embassy and the UN who were kidnapped in Sanaa a year ago.

Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar Al-Eryani said the abductions are further proof that the Houthis are “terrorists” who disregard the diplomatic rules and norms that prevent the targeting of such employees.

“Raiding foreign embassies, detaining diplomatic mission employees and using them as instruments for blackmail are solely practices of foreign terrorists and they do not reflect the Yemeni people, who value brothers and friends,” he said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday called for the release of 12 US and UN workers who were taken from the US embassy in Sanaa, as he denounced the actions of the Houthis.

“I call on the Houthis to release these Yemeni citizens and return them to their families as a demonstration of their commitment to peace for the people of Yemen and willingness to participate in a future government that respects the rule of law,” he said.

The EU mission in Yemen made a similar request, in a message posted on Twitter: “The EU reiterates its call on the Houthis to release all detained US Embassy and UN employees. Their release would convey an important message of commitment to peace.”