U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis called for a cessation of hostilities in Yemen within the next 30 days. He made the statement during a discussion at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) on Oct. 30.
“Yemen has had more problems than any people deserve to carry,” Mattis said. “We’re calling on all the parties—specifically the Houthis and the Arab Coalition—to meet in Sweden in November and come to a solution … not talk about subordinate issues like what town they’re going to meet in, or what size the table is they meet around but talk about demilitarizing the border so that the Saudis and the Emirates do not have to worry about missiles coming into their homes and cities and airports.”
— U.S. Institute of Peace (@USIP) October 30, 2018
He said the United States and others were prepared to forcefully bring up the push for cessation in the international arena. Mattis will also push to “ensure that all the missiles that Iran has provided to the Houthis are put under international watch in parts somewhere where they can be accounted.”
He said the United States and like-minded countries are looking to “set the conditions for a return to traditional areas inside Yemen and a government that allows for this amount of local autonomy that Houthis or southerners want.”
“This has got to end. We’ve got to replace combat with compromise.”
Mattis said he has been working with U.N. special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths before the upcoming November meetings to amass international support for the move. “It’s time to stop this.”
Photos: #SecDef Mattis at our headquarters this evening. He discussed the National Defense Strategy, conflicts in the Middle East, great power competition, and more. Watch: https://t.co/3F7m6zbmpw #MattisUSIP @DeptofDefense pic.twitter.com/oV7MBmF3W4
— U.S. Institute of Peace (@USIP) October 31, 2018
“Right now, what the Iranians have done by bringing in missiles … is interrupted freedom of navigation. They’re the ones that keep fueling this conflict, and they’re the ones that need to knock it off.
“They [Iran] may do it through proxies as they do it so often in the Middle East, but they do not escape accountability for what they’re doing through proxies and surrogate forces. We still will hold them accountable,” Mattis said.
Mattis said that the tight 30-day deadline was the “only way we’re going to really solve” the ongoing crisis that erupted in 2015.
“We’ve got to move toward a peace effort here. And we can’t say we’re going to do it sometime in the future. We need to be doing this in the next 30 days,” he said.
“The longer-term solution—and by longer-term, I mean 30 days from now—we want to see everybody around a peace table based on a ceasefire, based on a pullback from the border, and then based on the ceasing of dropping bombs that will then allow [Special Envoy Martin Griffiths] to get them together in Sweden and end this war.”
The defense secretary said that U.S. efforts continue to provide intelligence, targeting support, and training, as well as mid-air refueling for the Saudi-led coalition forces.
In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo backed called for a stop to the missile and drone strikes by Iran-allied Houthi rebels against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He also said that the Saudi-led coalition must cease air strikes on Houthi targets in populated areas of Yemen.
Yemen is one of the poorest Arab countries and faces the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by a nearly 4-year-old war that pits the Houthis against the internationally recognized government backed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the West.
“The time is now for the cessation of hostilities, including missile and UAV strikes from Houthi-controlled areas into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” Pompeo said, using an acronym for unmanned aerial vehicles.
“Subsequently, Coalition air strikes must cease in all populated areas in Yemen,” he said, adding that a cessation of hostilities and resumption of a political track would help ease the humanitarian crisis.
Pompeo said last month that he had certified to Congress that Saudi Arabia and the UAE were already working to reduce civilian casualties in Yemen.
Mattis said that the Saudis and Emiratis appeared ready to attend talks to negotiate a solution to the conflict.
Three-quarters of Yemen’s population, or 22 million people, require aid and 8.4 million people are on the brink of starvation.
Reuters contributed to this article.
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