Published: Mon, January 14, 2019

Saudi Crown Prince, Pompeo agree on need for de-escalation in Yemen

Saudi Crown Prince, Pompeo agree on need for de-escalation in Yemen

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Riyadh late Sunday here, it the latest swing of a Middle East tour to show US commitment to the region. He will still travel to Oman later Monday. The proposed Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) has been dubbed an Arab Nato.

However, President Trump has said Washington wants to preserve the alliance with the kingdom, although the US Senate has clearly blamed Prince Mohammed for the murder. "We think we learned a lot along the way that will be important going forward", he said.

Pompeo stressed the importance of ending fighting in Yemen and keeping up pressure Iran.

People protest against the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London, October 26 2018.

Pompeo's visit to Saudi Arabia is part of an extensive eight-day trip to Amman, Cairo, Manama, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Riyadh, Muscat, and finally Kuwait City.

The relationship between Riyadh and Washington remains tense following Khashoggi's brutal slaying and dismemberment at the consulate. In other words, the thinking is the murder could not have been carried out without the knowledge of bin Salman, often referred to by his initials, MBS.

Khashoggi's murder has cast a renewed spotlight on the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, gripped by what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, but it was not clear whether the subject would be discussed during Monday's meeting.

His support has come despite the US Central Intelligence Agency's reported conclusion that Prince Mohammed very likely ordered the murder. Members of Prince Mohammed's entourage have been implicated in the killing and US lawmakers have demanded America pull back its support of the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The US Mission to Saudi Arabia tweeted a video of the meeting, adding that the crown prince and Pompeo also agreed on the need to adhere to the Sweden agreements, especially the ceasefire and redeployment in Hodeidah.

"We will continue to have a conversation with the crown prince and the Saudis about ensuring the accountability is full and complete with respect to the unacceptable murder of Jamal Khashoggi", Pompeo told reporters in Qatar, before flying to Riyadh.

Pompeo also pressed the Saudis on bringing an end to the near two-year-old dispute with its Gulf neighbor Qatar, which has badly hindered USA efforts to create a united Arab military alliance to counter Iran.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt - all USA allies - cut ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups and seeking closer ties to Saudi arch-rival Iran. It restored diplomatic relations with Iran after the crisis erupted, marking a setback for Saudi Arabia, which views the Shiite power Iran as its main regional rival.

The US, which at first appeared to back the boycott of Qatar, has so far been unsuccessful in trying to end the dispute.

Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs H E Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani also said his country's relationship with America "has enabled us to confront so many regional and worldwide challenges".

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