Kerry talks new plan for Yemen, pledges US aid
Both US, Saudi urged for the resumption of peace talks between Yemen’s two warring sides
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that there is a “new plan” aimed at ending conflict in Yemen which will see participation of the Iran-backed Houthi militia group in a unity government.
Dubbing the plan as having a “fair and sensible approach,” Kerry told reporters during a joint press conference with his Saudi counterpart in Riyadh that Houthis’ participation in a future unity government will be in exchange for ending violence, laying down of arms and transferring of heavy weapons to a third party.
He also criticized the international response to the crisis in Yemen and pledged $189 million in a new US aid for the humanitarian crisis marring the country, considered one of the poorest in the Middle East.
The pledge of the aid will bring the total amount of US assistance to more than $327 million since October 2015. More than 80 percent of the country, or about 21 million people, are in need of aid and some 10 million are in need of emergency food assistance.
Kerry urged for a solution for Yemen as soon as possible but said such a resolution should be reached with respect to Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty.
He said Saudi Arabia has the right for self-defense in the backdrop of missiles being launched by the Iran-backed militias into the Kingdom’s territories.
The United States has backed the coalition with multi-billion dollar arms sales and provided logistical and intelligence support.
Kerry also stressed that Yemen's stability is important to blunting the expansion of extremist groups there like the ISIS and al-Qaeda. He expressed concern about missiles and rockets fired from inside Yemen toward Saudi Arabia’s southern border. The strikes and armed attacks at the border have killed several civilians and dozens of Saudi border guards.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, meanwhile, told reporters following discussions with Kerry that a “road map” was envisaged for the UN envoy for Yemen to use when resuming talks with the southern Arabian Peninsula country’s warring sides.
“We managed to come out with a vision related to a roadmap for Yemen, which the UN envoy had discussed with us so there will be clarity on the final settlement which the UN envoy will discuss with the Yemeni parties,” Jubeir told the news conference.
Video of Saudi FM explaining to a reporter how the crisis in Yemen had started:
Kerry also met Thursday with UN special envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. The two later met with Jubeir, British Under Secretary at the Foreign Office Tobias Ellwood, and the United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan to exchange ideas about reaching a political solution in Yemen.
Earlier, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Kerry into the early hours of Thursday morning on ways to end Yemen’s conflict and resume peace talks between the warring sides.
After his meeting with the Saudi monarch, Kerry wrote on Twitter that they discussed the “need to reach a political solution (and) address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen,” as well as the war in Syria and the fight against the ISIS group.
Kerry arrived in Jeddah from Nigeria for discussions with Saudi leaders and other Gulf Arab states and will also update them on US meetings with Russia addressing military cooperation in Syria, a senior US official said ahead of the talks.
The talks come as Syrian rebels backed by Turkish special forces, tanks and warplanes entered one of ISIS’s last strongholds on the Turkish-Syrian border, in Turkey’s first major US-backed incursion into its southern neighbor. In Saudi Arabia, talks with the deputy crown prince, which began late and lasted three hours, ended at 12:59 a.m. local time, US officials said.
A senior State Department official declined to elaborate on Kerry’s proposals. “The multilateral meeting on Yemen is designed to share ideas and initiatives for getting the political discussions back on track and trying to get a political solution,” the official said. It would also address getting aid delivered.
The US military has coordinated with the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen, helping ensure Saudi access to precision-guided munitions. Kerry “will raise our concerns about civilian casualties and damage to civilian targets inside Yemen,” the US official said.
(With Reuters and AP)