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U.S. to stop aerial refueling of Saudi coalition aircraft in Yemen

Men inspect a destroyed structure in Yemen.
A Hodeidah factory allegedly targeted by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in July. Photo: Abdo Hyder/AFP/Getty Images

Saudi Arabia will no longer receive aerial refueling assistance from the U.S. in Yemen, according to statements released by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Friday.

The big picture: Pressure has been building on the U.S.-Saudi relationship since the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the increased attention on the atrocities taking place in Yemen. The move comes as the U.N. envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths is working to gather the warring parties in Yemen for peace talks, which Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have thrown their support behind.

Saudi Arabia:

"Recently the Kingdom and the Coalition has increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refueling in Yemen. As a result, in consultation with the United States, the Coalition has requested cessation of inflight refueling support for it's operations in Yemen. ‏The Coalition Command expresses its hope that the upcoming UN sponsored negotiations in a third country, will lead to a negotiated settlement in accordance to UNSCR 2216 and see an end to the aggression by the Iranian backed Houthi militias' against the Yemeni people and countries in the region..."

Secretary Mattis:

"We support the decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after consultations with the U.S. Government, to use the Coalition’s own military capabilities to conduct inflight refueling in support of its operations in Yemen. We are all focused on supporting resolution of the conflict, led by UN Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths. ... The U.S. will also continue working with the Coalition and Yemen to minimize civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts throughout the country."
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