US certifies Saudi, UAE acting to reduce risks to Yemen civilians

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday he has “certified” that coalition partners Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are acting to reduce risks to civilians from their military operations in Yemen.

Pompeo said he delivered the certification on Tuesday to Congress, as required by US law to continue American refuelling of Saudi and UAE warplanes in the conflict, which has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

In a statement, Pompeo said both countries “are undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure resulting from military operations of these governments”.

The United Nations (UN) estimates that as many as 10,000 people have died in the conflict, most of them civilians, since the Saudi-led coalition launched military operations in 2015 in support of the internationally recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Government forces are fighting Iran-backed Huthi rebels who seized control of Sanaa in 2014.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. – AFP

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a separate statement endorsing the certification, which he said has been illustrated by coalition support for UN-led efforts to end the conflict.

“The Trump administration has been clear that ending the conflict in Yemen is a national security priority,” Pompeo added in his statement.

He said Washington would work closely with the coalition to ensure Saudi and UAE support for UN peace efforts and to allow unimpeded access for commercial and humanitarian relief supplies to reach Yemenis.

Long-awaited, UN-brokered peace talks between the Saudi-backed government and the Huthi rebels failed to take place as planned last week in Geneva.

The Huthis said the UN had failed to guarantee the safe return of their delegation from Geneva to Sanaa and to secure the evacuation of wounded rebels to Oman.