Washington presses Riyadh for Yemen peace


On his last official visit to Riyadh, John Kerry said the US would continue to work with Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to achieve a new ceasefire deal in Yemen.

The coalition of four nations “hopes that within two weeks it might be possible to achieve” a pause in the fighting, Kerry told reporters at a joint news conference with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir on Sunday.

“The failure to achieve a lasting cessation of hostilities is disturbing to all of us,” Kerry said.

The new ceasefire effort would be the eighth attempt since the escalation in Yemen fighting last year.

Saudi Arabia launched an air campaign against Shiite Houthi rebels in March last year. Riyadh accuses Tehran of backing the rebels, who have made significant territorial gains in the impoverished Middle Eastern country, capturing the capital Sanaa and ousting internationally recognized President Mansour Hadi.

Over 10,000 people have been killed and three million displaced since the start of the conflict. More than 21 million people – over 80 percent of Yemen’s population – are in urgent need of aid, and some 9.4 million Yemenis have problems accessing water, according to the UN.

At least 48 soldiers were killed in Yemen on Sunday after a suicide bomber blew himself up in the country’s second-largest city of Aden, officials said, revising earlier death tolls upwards. Dozens more were injured at the gathering near Solban army base in northeastern Aden, they said.


Over 10,000 people have been killed and three million displaced since the start of the conflict

Curbing military support?

Since March last year, the US government has been providing logistical support, including in-air refueling and intelligence, to the Saudi-led air campaign.

But Saudi-led airstrikes on a Houthi funeral procession in October greatly embarrassed Washington. The attack in the Yemeni capital killed at least 140 people and wounded more than 525.

According to media reports, US officials said Washington was considering reducing military aid to Saudi Arabia, which includes halting the supply of some precision-guided missiles, due to an increase in civilian casualties.

But Saudi Foreign Minister Jubeir denied the reports: “This news that has been leaked contradicts reality. The reality is that converting regular bombs to smart bombs would be welcome because smart bombs are more accurate,” Jubeir said in the Arabic language alongside Kerry.

“The kingdom has received nothing official from the American government in this regard,” he added.

Kerry also played down reports of delays to weapon supplies.

shs/rc  (AFP, Reuters)