Kerry announces plan to restart peace talks, pledges $189M in aid

Following Thursday's meetings in Jeddah with Gulf leaders and the United Nations, US Secretary of State John Kerry held a press conference with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir to call for an end to the bloodshed in Yemen and announce a new plan to restart peace talks with the goal of forming a unity government. During his address, Kerry criticized the international response to Yemen’s crisis while pledging $189 million of additional US humanitarian aid. Kerry emphasized the need for a political solution, saying that “everyone that we met with today, all of the ministers who came here, were in full agreement: there is no military solution.”

The proposed solution would include “the swift formation of a new national unity government, with power shared among the parties; the withdrawal of [Houthi] forces from Sana’a and other key areas; the transfer of all heavy weapons, including ballistic missiles and launchers, from the Houthis and forces allied with them, to a third party.”

The purpose of our meetings was, quite simply, to see if together we could find a way to end the violence of Yemen...if we cannot find a solution to the war that meets the appropriate needs of respecting the sovereignty and the security of Saudi Arabia, while at the same time providing the Houthi, a minority, an opportunity to be part of a government in the future, then things can only go in one direction, and that is worse, in Yemen.”

Kerry added that Yemen’s stability is vital in order to prevent al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group from taking “further advantage of the political and security vacuum.”

Speaking on the Houthi offensives against Saudi Arabia, Kerry said that he was "deeply troubled" by photographs shown to him by Saudi Minister of Interior Mohammed bin Nayef of “missiles that had come from Iran that were being positioned on the Saudi border.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded, saying such statements regarding Iran’s shipment of ballistic missiles to Yemen were "baseless accusations." 

According to a UN panel of experts on Yemen, some missiles appearing in Houthi videos and those intercepted off the coast of Oman in late 2015 originated in Iran, but were manufactured in Russia and the US.

“The Panel found that the seized weapons comprised anti-tank guided missiles and associated equipment of a type similar to United States-made BGM-71 TOW missiles and Russian-made 9M113 Konkurs missiles. The Panel noted that the TOW missiles, their associated equipment and electronic components had markings bearing the names of Iranian industrial companies.”

In response to widespread criticism of the Saudi-led coalition's conduct in Yemen, Kerry stated that avoiding civilian casualties “is a concern fully shared by Foreign Minister al-Jubeir and by the Government of Saudi Arabia…” Kerry then criticized the international community’s response to the crisis in Yemen, saying that it has "fallen short of filling the gap between the supplies that are available and those that are required.”

He added that “The United States has been the largest donor-by far,” and followed up that statement with a pledge to contribute  $189 million in aid. This brings the total amount of US assistance to Yemen to more than $327 million since October 2015.

The sum needed to supply millions of Yemenis with critical medical and food aid and basic services greatly surpasses the amount contributed by the US and other countries. In 2016, the UN appealed for $1.8 billion in critical humanitarian assistance. As of June, less than 25% of that funding was received.

A joint report from May by the World Bank, the UN, Islamic Development Bank, and European Union said that, "The conflict has so far resulted in damage costs (still partial and incomplete) of almost $7 billion and economic losses (in nominal terms) of over $7.3 billion in relation to production and service delivery."

Concluding the conference was a question from the Saudi Press Agency on the June withdrawal of US consultants from Yemen. In response, Kerry reiterated how "deep the commitment is of the United States to Saudi Arabia’s defense and security interests and to helping to resolve the Yemen crisis...Despite the consultants not being in the activity, we still share intelligence; we’re still sharing information. And we will continue to work on the joint cooperation efforts in order to be successful."