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Mattis, Pompeo call for cease-fire in Yemen

Pompeo and Mattis at a press conference in July. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis both separately called for a cease-fire in Yemen's civil war on Tuesday night.

The big picture: Both voiced continued U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen last month, but the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has seriously disrupted the U.S.-Saudi relationship. And Yemen is facing the world's worst ongoing humanitarian crisis as a result of the war.

What they said:

  • Mattis, who spoke at the U.S. Institute of Peace, via CNN: "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. We need to be doing this in the next 30 days. We've admired this problem for long enough down there."
  • Pompeo issued a statement: "The time is now for the cessation of hostilities. ... Substantive consultations under the UN Special Envoy must commence this November in a third country. ... It is time to end this conflict, replace conflict with compromise, and allow the Yemeni people to heal through peace and reconstruction.

The other side, from former Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche: "If the Administration is serious about the need to end this war, Mr. Pompeo should get back on his airplane and fly to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi and Muscat and demonstrate a commitment on the part of the U.S. to use its influence to produce a ceasefire. Otherwise, these statements look like a desperate attempt by the Administration to get ahead of the wave of condemnation that has engulfed Saudi Arabia. ... Notably, Secretary Pompeo’s statement failed to even call for the principal parties to the conflict to take steps simultaneously to implement a ceasefire, instead insisting that Houthi missile strikes into Saudi territory must stop first, after which coalition air strikes would cease. That is not a serious proposal, that is fundamentally an invitation for the war to continue."

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