US Defense Secretary James Mattis today called on Saudi Arabia to “accelerate” the peace process in Yemen even as the Pentagon pushes to continue US refueling support for Riyadh’s bombing campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
During a 45-minute meeting with visiting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Pentagon, Mattis urged the Saudi leader to hasten peace talks that have taken on new life with last month’s appointment of former British diplomat Martin Griffiths as the new UN envoy. Mattis called Riyadh “part of the solution” to the conflict Saudi Arabia entered in 2015, even as the mounting civilian death toll has stoked a backlash in Congress.
“We are going to end this war, that is the bottom line,” Mattis said at a joint ceremony before their meeting. “And we are going to end it on positive terms for the people of Yemen but also security for the nations in the peninsula.”
The defense secretary’s peace push comes as the Pentagon has engaged in a full-court press to stop US lawmakers from curtailing US support for the Saudi-led campaign. Mattis personally made an appearance at weekly Senate lunches on Capitol Hill this week to convince lawmakers of both parties to vote against a bipartisan bill to end US refueling and intelligence support for the war. The effort failed 55-44.