John Kerry meets Boris Johnson and Saudi foreign minister in London and stresses urgency of ending violence in Yemen
Sun Oct 16, 2016 | 12:56pm EDT
The United States and Britain called on Sunday for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Yemen to end violence between Iran-backed Houthis and the government, which is supported by Gulf states.
A Saudi-led campaign in Yemen has come under heavy criticism since an air strike on a funeral gathering in the Yemeni capital Sanaa that killed 140 people according to a United Nations’ estimate and 82 according to the Houthis.
On Saturday, a U.S. admiral said a destroyer had again been targeted in the Red Sea in an apparent failed missile attack launched from the coast of Yemen.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said if Yemen’s opposing sides accepted the ceasefire then the special envoy to the U.N., Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, would work through the details and announce when and how it would take effect.
“This is the time to implement a ceasefire unconditionally and then move to the negotiating table,” Kerry told reporters.
“We cannot emphasize enough today the urgency of ending the violence in Yemen,” he said after meeting British foreign minister, Boris Johnson, and other officials in London.
Kerry said they were calling for the implementation of the ceasefire “as rapidly as possible, meaning Monday, Tuesday”.
The UN’s special envoy said he had been in contact with the Houthi’s lead negotiator and the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. He also said he hoped for “clearer plans” for a ceasefire in the coming days
Johnson said the conflict in Yemen was “causing increasing international concern; the fatalities that we’re seeing there are unacceptable”.
“There should be a ceasefire and the U.N. should lead the way in calling for that ceasefire.”
Their call came after meetings in London with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and senior UAE officials.
Kerry met Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Saturday in Switzerland on the sidelines of Syria talks.
“It is a crisis now of enormous proportions with an increasing economic, increasing humanitarian and health crisis, and obviously the military components are troubling to everybody,” Kerry said.
He added that the release of two American prisoners by Yemen’s Houthi and the evacuation of Yemeni civilians wounded in a Saudi airstrike were “an important humanitarian gesture by the Saudis to address the humanitarian concern”.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton, Writing by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Mark Potter, Greg Mahlich)
On 8 October a Saudi air raid on a funeral killed 140 people and wounded 525 others, drawing severe criticism of the Arab coalition.
Cheikh Ahmed said the attack took place “amid significant progress in the long peace negotiations, and at a time when we were negotiating a durable accord”.
At the weekend Saudi Arabia admitted responsibility for the funeral attack and blamed incorrect intelligence and improper procedures. It said it was taking disciplinary measures, awarding compensation to families of the victims and easing the air blockade that it enforces to allow the evacuation of the most seriously wounded for treatment abroad.
Britain’s Foreign Office said on Saturday it would take into account the Saudi investigation into the attack when deciding its policy on allowing arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Britain knows it could be accused of hypocrisy if it condemns Russian backing for indiscriminate Syrian bombing but does not do the same in response to Saudi outrages.
Washington has accused Houthi rebels of firing missiles at US warships in the Red Sea on 9 and 12 October. The missiles fell short of their targets. On Saturday the US Navy said it was investigating another possible missile attack on a group of American warships.
The US military responded to the earlier attacks by hitting radar sites in territory controlled by the insurgents, defence officials in Washington said, in the first direct American action against the rebels.
An Omani aircraft evacuated those wounded in the funeral strike from the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, on Saturday. The flight also carried two American citizens who had been held in Yemen and were released after mediation by Oman. A spokesman for the US State Department, Mark Toner, noted the “humanitarian gesture by the Houthis”.
The Omani aircraft also flew home to Sana’a rebel negotiators who, because of the air blockade, had been stranded in Muscat since the collapse of UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait in August.
Tags: American warships, Boris Johnson, Britain, Houthi, Iran, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Iranian-backed Houthis, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, John Kerry, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Red Sea, Saudi Arabia, U.N., UK, US Navy, Yemen, Zarif