The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen announced on Saturday that it had asked the United States to stop refueling its planes and was now in a position to take care of itself. refueling.
The Pentagon immediately approved the announcement, which comes as US parliamentarians, both Republicans and Democrats, insisted that the United States immediately end their supply operations of Saudi-owned aircraft operating in Yemen.
It is the official Saudi news agency SPA that announced this development. "Recently, the Kingdom and the Coalition have increased their ability to independently conduct air-to-air refueling in Yemen," said SPA.
"As a result, in consultation with the United States, the Coalition has called for the cessation of in-flight refueling support for its operations in Yemen," the agency said.
Saudi Arabia and the entire coalition supporting forces loyal to Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi "are continually seeking to improve their military professionalism and self-reliance," said SPA.
The United States responded quickly.
"We support the decision of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after consultations with the US Government, to use the Coalition's own military capabilities to conduct in-flight refueling in support of its operations in Yemen," said in a statement. US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
The Washington Post, citing sources familiar with the matter, had said a few hours earlier that the decision to stop the coalition's American air refueling had already been taken by the United States, which was putting an end to their decision. most concrete support to the Saudi coalition in three years of conflict
– Controversial help –
This aid, already criticized in Washington, had become even more controversial since the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, attributed to high officials of the kingdom and tarnished the image of Ryad.
US parliamentarians, both Democratic and Republican, demanded that Washington take "immediate" measures, "including putting an end to the supply of Saudi Arabian aircraft", failing which they threatened to pass measures in the Senate.
Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Todd Young issued a statement to this effect shortly before the Washington Post article came out. "We are waiting for Riyadh to engage in good faith and urgently in negotiations to end the civil war," wrote those elected from both sides of the political spectrum.
The Pentagon and the coalition spoke out on the prospect of negotiations for a settlement of the conflict.
"The Coalition Command expresses the hope that the forthcoming UN-led negotiations in a third country will lead to a negotiated settlement," said SPA.
– Possible talks –
Following the failure in September of a UN mediation, the coalition announced the resumption of the assault on the strategic port of Hodeida, in western Yemen, which intensified from 1 November.
The battle to retake Hodeida from the rebels who control the city threatens the peace efforts of the United States and the UN, which hopes to be able to convene talks by the end of the year.
The coalition, the agency says, "hopes to see an end to the aggression of Houthi militias backed by Iran against the Yemeni people and against countries in the region, including the threat of ballistic missiles and drones."
The Pentagon also spoke of upcoming negotiations. "We are all focused on supporting a resolution of the conflict, led by UN Special Envoy Martin Griffith," said Jim Mattis in his statement.
"The United States and the coalition plan to work together to strengthen legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, secure the borders of their country, and help counter the efforts of al-Qaeda and ISIS in Yemen and in Yemen. the region, "added the US Secretary of Defense, using the acronym for the jihadist Islamic State (IS) organization.
Fighting for control of Hodeida was particularly deadly on Friday, with strong resistance from Houthi rebels trying by all means to slow down the advance of pro-government forces backed by the coalition.