Security

US calls for Yemen ceasefire within 30 days

By AFP

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Yemeni artists paint a pro-peace mural on a wall in Sanaa on August 16th. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

The US on Tuesday (October 30th) called for a ceasefire and peace talks in Yemen, as the Arab coalition sent more than 10,000 new troops towards the Red Sea port of al-Hodeidah ahead of a new assault.

Meanwhile, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said Tuesday it is "more than time that this war ended".

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said the US had been watching the conflict "for long enough", adding that Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are part of the Arab coalition battling the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah), are ready for talks.

"We have got to move toward a peace effort here, and we cannot say we are going to do it some time in the future," Mattis said.

"We need to be doing this in the next 30 days."

He said the US is calling for all warring parties to meet with UN special envoy Martin Griffiths in Sweden in November and "come to a solution".

The Arab coalition intervened in the conflict between Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, whose government is recognized by the UN, and the Iran-backed Houthis, in 2015.

Nearly 10,000 people have since been killed and the country now stands at the brink of famine, with more than 22 million Yemenis -- three quarters of the population -- in need of humanitarian assistance.

Pro-government forces deployed reinforcements to the Red Sea coast ahead of a new offensive on al-Hodeidah "within days", a military official said earlier.

The Houthis have for the past 10 days been stationing fighters on rooftops of buildings in al-Hodeidah city, government military officials said.

The adjacent port is the entry point for more than 70% of Yemen's imports.

Peace is 'the only way'

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for an end to all Arab coalition airstrikes in Yemen's populated areas.

"The time is now for the cessation of hostilities, including missile and UAV (drone) strikes from Houthi-controlled areas into the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE," Pompeo said in a statement.

"Subsequently, coalition airstrikes must cease in all populated areas in Yemen."

Mattis said US support is based primarily on teaching the Saudi air force to improve targeting and to not drop bombs when there is any doubt about what they might hit.

"Our goal right now is to achieve a level of capability by those forces fighting against the Houthis that they are not killing innocent people," he said.

Mattis said the ceasefire should be based on a Houthi pullback from the border and a ceasefire, and the parties must come together to end the war.

That will permit the UN special envoy "to get them together in Sweden and end this war", he said. "That is the only way we are going to really solve this."

Call for cessation of hostilities

Last month, UN-led peace talks failed to take off after the Houthis refused to fly to Geneva over what they said was the UN's failure to guarantee a safe return to Sanaa, which the group has controlled since 2014.

Pompeo said the new talks would aim to "implement confidence-building measures to address the underlying issues of the conflict, the demilitarisation of borders and the concentration of all large weapons under international observation".

"A cessation of hostilities and vigorous resumption of a political track will help ease the humanitarian crisis as well," he added.

"It is time to end this conflict, replace conflict with compromise and allow the Yemeni people to heal through peace and reconstruction."

Yemen's war must stop, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said Tuesday.

"It is more than time that this war ended and it is also important -- even France's priority -- that the humanitarian situation must improve and that humanitarian aid can get through," Parly told BFM television and RMC radio.

"This military situation is an effective dead-end so this war must stop," she said, adding that France is exerting "relentless pressure" through the UN for a political settlement in Yemen.

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