US Secretary of State discusses Yemen war on Saudi trip
US Secretary of State John Kerry met Saudi King Salman and others on Sunday to discuss the war in Yemen, a visit to the kingdom that likely will be his last as America’s top diplomat.
Kerry’s trip, ahead of the inauguration of Republican President-elect Donald Trump, comes as diplomatic ties between the two longtime allies have been strained by the Iran nuclear deal championed by Democratic President Barack Obama and other issues.
Meanwhile, America has grown increasingly worried about civilian casualties caused by Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen to the point of cutting some arms sales to the kingdom last week. Any tensions weren’t immediately visible as Kerry held meetings with the king, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and other royalty in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.
He later joined diplomats from Britain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates to speak with Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the United Nations special envoy to Yemen. The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen’s Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, while Oman has served as an interlocutor for them.
On Twitter, British Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood said the meeting discussed a political process to end Yemen’s war, something he described as “the only way to bring peace.”
Yemen’s war began when the Houthis and their allies seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in September 2014. A Saudi-led coalition of mostly Gulf Arab nations launched a campaign in March 2015 against the rebels. The UN and rights groups estimate at least 9,000 people overall have died in the war, with the UN estimating at least 4,125 civilians have been killed since the airstrike campaign began.