Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Arab Coalition ends United States refueling deal in Yemen

Yemen forces push towards Hodeida as death toll mounts Houthi Leader Pleads with Deserters to Return
Deanna Wagner | 10 November, 2018, 15:13

Mattis went on to say that the U.S. would continue cooperating with the Saudi-led coalition and Yemen to "minimise civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts throughout the country", while it would also support United Nations effort's to solve the crisis.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said early Saturday it had "requested cessation of inflight refueling" by the US for its fighter jets after American officials said they would stop the operations amid growing anger over civilian casualties from the kingdom's airstrikes.

"We have decided that, in the current situation, no new licences are to be granted for exports of defence-related products or dual-use items for military use to Saudi Arabia", Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said in a statement.

The action comes amid growing congressional anger against Saudi Arabia, a key ally and the country where President Donald Trump made his first visit overseas after taking office.

USA officials, speaking on condition of anonymity Friday to discuss the decision before its announcement, said the end to refueling wouldn't stop American training and military assistance.

The change comes at a time of worldwide outrage over the murder of USA -based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and after Democratic and Republican lawmakers threatened to take action in Congress next week over the refueling operations. The Post first reported the Trump administration's desire to end the refueling.

Mattis acknowledged "continued bipartisan interest from Congress", and said the Trump administration is "appreciative of the continued dialogue we have had with key members on this issue".

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The United States effectively gave a green light to the Saudi-led offensive when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on September 12 certified continued American support for the coalition's air campaign against the Houthis.

Saudi Arabia has been paying the United States for the refueling, but there were no details on how much that cost.

He suggested a continuing role for the United States in Yemen to help the Saudi-led coalition and Yemeni forces minimise civilian casualties and expand humanitarian efforts. It said that the coalition, which relies heavily on air power, has killed scores of civilians in recent airstrikes, and rebels are responding with mortars in residential neighborhoods that cause indiscriminate casualties.

In August the defense secretary warned that USA support for the coalition was "not unconditional", noting it must do "everything humanly possible to avoid any innocent loss of life".

"Why are we still helping the Saudis with targeting?" The conflict has plunged Yemen into a humanitarian crisis.

The conflict in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by the Houthis who toppled the internationally recognized government.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for an immediate end to the military escalation in Yemen. Other groups have estimated that more than 10,000 have been killed - excluding over 2,300 cholera deaths since April 2017 amid pitiful water supplies.