The United States is set to halt midair refuelling of aircraft engaged in Saudi Arabia’s war efforts in Yemen after Riyadh claimed it can handle it by itself.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the member countries of the Coalition to Support legitimacy in Yemen, continually pursue improvements to military professionalism and self-sufficiency,” the Saudi embassy in Washington DC said in a statement on Saturday. “Recently the kingdom and the coalition has increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refuelling in Yemen. As a result, in consultation with the United States, the Coalition has requested cessation of inflight refuelling support for it’s operations in Yemen.”
US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said US government was consulted, The Guardian reported. The move comes amid international outrage over the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed last month after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Critics of the war have long questioned the United States for aiding Saudi Arabia.
On October 31, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on all participants in the Yemen war to end hostilities and said United Nations-led negotiations to end the civil war should begin next month. The civil war engulfed the country after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels captured large areas, including the capital Sana’a, and overthrew the government of Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The Saudi-led coalition, backed by the US, has been fighting the rebels since 2015. More than 10,000 people have been killled and more than 2 million have been displaced because of the war. In September, the United Nations described Yemen as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, with close to 75% of its population requiring some form of humanitarian assistance and protection.