US secretary of state on Qatar visit urges an end to a diplomatic rift between Washington’s Gulf allies.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have agreed on the importance of de-escalation in military operations in Yemen amid United Nations‘ peace efforts to end the conflict.
“On #Yemen, agreed on need for continued de-escalation and adherence to Sweden agreements, especially cease-fire and redeployment in #Hudaydah,” the US embassy in Riyadh tweeted on Monday after a meeting between Pompeo and Prince Mohammed.
The Iranian-allied Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government agreed during peace talks in Sweden in December on a ceasefire in Hodeidah and to withdraw troops from the strategic Red Sea port city.
.@SecPompeo met today with Crown Prince #MohammedbinSalman. On #Yemen, agreed on need for continued de-escalation and adherence to Sweden agreements, especially cease-fire and redeployment in #Hudaydah. A comprehensive political solution is only way to the end the conflict. pic.twitter.com/zTFAByZqH9
— U.S. Mission to KSA (@USAinKSA) January 14, 2019
The top US diplomat arrived in the Saudi capital early on Monday, and is also set to meet King Salman bin Abdul Aziz.
Pompeo met Qatari officials a day earlier in Doha, where he called for an end to the 19-month blockade of the Gulf state by a quartet of Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the UAE.
The bloc accuses Qatar of supporting groups it has proscribed as “terrorist groups”, a charge Doha vehemently denies.
“We are all more powerful when we are working together and disputes are limited,” Pompeo said at a joint news conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani on Sunday.
Attempts at mediation between Qatar and the blockading nations have stalled, as highlighted by the recent resignation of US envoy Anthony Zinni – who quit because of an apparent “lack of will” on behalf of “regional leaders” for regional reconciliation.
A pressing issue during talks in Riyadh is the murder of Saudi journalist Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October last year. The Washington Post columnist’s slaying by a Saudi hit squad prompted international outrage, especially among US media outlets and politicians.
Western intelligence agencies, including the CIA, have strongly hinted that the killing could not have taken place without the authorisation of Prince Mohammed.
Instead, Pompeo has called on the Saudis to ensure Khashoggi’s killers are held accountable, avoiding any suggestion that Prince Mohammed was involved.
Long seen as a royal family insider, Khashoggi found himself on the wrong side of the crown prince for publicly criticising some of his policies.
Pompeo is due to visit Oman next but will cut short his tour and miss a scheduled visit to Kuwait due to a death in his family, the US State Department said, adding he would visit the country “at an agreeable time”.
His tour comes amid conflicts raging in Syria and Yemen, while the US is trying to ensure a unified front against Iran, which it accuses of expanding its political and military footprint in the Middle East.