Mattis' Push for Yemen Peace Talks This Month Has Failed, UN Says

James Mattis

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen is opting to refuel its aircraft independently going forward, ending a controversial collaboration with USA military assets.

FILE - Yemeni men carry the coffin of a boy who was killed by a Saudi-led coalition airstrike, during a funeral in Saada, Yemen, Aug. 13, 2018.

"Recently the kingdom and the coalition has increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refuelling in Yemen", the statement read.

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.

As a result, the decision to halt the USA refueling will likely have little impact on the fight, but will allow the Trump administration to say it has taken action against the Saudis for the devastation in Yemen.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in August warned that USA support for the coalition was "not unconditional", noting it must do "everything humanly possible to avoid any innocent loss of life".

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the conflict between embattled Yemeni President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, whose government is recognised by the United Nations, and the Houthis in 2015.

The coalition has been waging an aerial bombing campaign in Yemen aimed at pushing the Houthis back, but the rebels still hold the key port city of Hodeida and the capital Sanaa.

But despite the "intense attacks", loyalist forces made fresh advances in eastern sectors of Hodeida.

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Save the Children reported nearly 100 air strikes - five times as many as in the whole first week of October - at the weekend.

"We've got to move toward a peace effort here, and we can't say we're going to be doing this sometime in the future", Mattis said.

On Friday, medical sources told the AFP news agency that 110 Houthi rebels and 22 pro-Yemeni government fighters had been killed in 24 hours.

Backed by Saudi air raids, loyalist troops for the first time entered residential neighbourhoods on Thursday, using bulldozers to remove concrete road blocks installed by the rebels.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' bid to bring the warring sides in Yemen to the peace table this month has been scrapped amid an escalation of the fighting, according to the United Nations.

Almost 10,000 people have since been killed and the country now stands at the brink of starvation.

Global focus on the conflict, which sees a Saudi-led coalition battling Houthi rebels, has sharpened in recent weeks as the country is pushed ever closer to an official starvation, which the United Nations warns will be the worst the world has seen for 100 years.

The decision by the U.S.to pull out also comes amid outrage by US lawmakers from both political parties over the October 2 killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

"The US and the Coalition are planning to collaborate on building up legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, secure their country's borders, and contribute to counter Al Qaeda and ISIS efforts in Yemen and the region", Mattis said in a statement.

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