National Security

Mattis, Pompeo Call for Ceasefire in Yemen Within 30 Days

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday called on all participants in Yemen's civil war to reach a ceasefire and meet for peace talks.

"Thirty days from now we want to see everybody around a peace table based on a ceasefire, based on a pullback from the border and then based on ceasing dropping of bombs that will permit the [United Nations] special envoy, Martin Griffiths—he's very good, he knows what he's doing—to get them together in Sweden and end this war," Mattis said at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C.

"We've got to move toward a peace effort here, and you can't say we're going to do it sometime in the future," Mattis added. "We need to be doing this in the next 30 days. We've admired this problem for long enough down there, and I believe that the Saudis and the Emirates are ready, and in fact had the Houthis not walked out of the last effort that Martin Griffiths had going, we'd probably be on our way there right now."

Pompeo echoed Mattis' call for a ceasefire in a statement, saying, "The United States calls on all parties to support U.N. Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in Yemen."

"Substantive consultations under the U.N. Special Envoy must commence this November in a third country," Pompeo added.

The United States supports a coalition led by Saudi Arabia that is fighting the Houthis in Yemen, who are backed by Iran.

Human rights activists and some members of Congress have called on the Trump administration to stop providing support to the Saudi-led coalition, arguing that Riyadh's campaign has worsened a humanitarian disaster in Yemen with bombings that have killed large numbers of civilians.

The U.S. has helped refuel coalition warplanes and provided training to the coalition on how to prevent civilian casualties.

Mattis discussed how the U.S. has been successful in setting a standard for other militaries regarding its technology, training, and other efforts.

"Some people have a very high expectation as demonstrated by the U.S. or the NATO Air Forces of what can be accomplished and what we have achieved through enormous effort, training, technology, and putting it altogether. Even then, we have had mistakes, but in our forces, we have set a standard that is very high," Mattis said. "The commander of the Royal Saudi Air Force has been going from base to base as we continue the training and the conferences for them and he's looking his pilots in the eye, explaining that there is never a reason to drop if they don't think they can hit the right target."

Both Mattis and Pompeo said that the coalition and the Houthis must stop targeting each other with missiles.

"The time is now for the cessation of hostilities, including missile and UAV strikes from Houthi-controlled areas into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates," Pompeo said in his statement. "Subsequently, coalition air strikes must cease in all populated areas in Yemen."