Published: Sun, November 11, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Ends refueling of Saudi planes

Ends refueling of Saudi planes

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen is opting to refuel its aircraft independently going forward, ending a controversial collaboration with U.S. military assets.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said early Saturday it had "requested cessation of inflight refueling" by the USA for its fighter jets after American officials said they would stop the operations amid growing anger over civilian casualties from the kingdom's airstrikes.

The Saudi statement said it had "increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refueling", and therefore "requested cessation of inflight refueling support for its operations in Yemen".

The United States, France and Britain - all veto-wielding council members - support the coalition in its campaign, launched in 2015, to restore the internationally-recognized government in Yemen but the heavy civilian toll has raised concerns. The Saudi-led blockade of the port city of Hodeidah threatens to make things worse, as it is the entry point for most of the country's food aid and medical supplies. "We are now warning that by allowing this to go on, parties to the conflict and their worldwide backers will be responsible for the death, injury and suffering of millions of people". Worldwide aid agencies warn any disruption to the port could sever that crucial lifeline.

Even as President Donald Trump's administration has condemned Khashoggi's slaying, the White House has sought to preserve its relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Mattis said: "We support the decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia".

The coalition's request came amid the backdrop of United States media reports that Washington planned to cease its refuelling support to the coalition amid mounting criticism of the devastating Yemeni conflict, raging since 2015, and the killing of Saudi opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey.

The Pentagon has provided refueling capabilities for about 20% of coalition planes flying sorties over Yemen.

The United Arab Emirates has thrown its support behind Saudi Arabia, its main ally, over the Khashoggi affair.

Last month, Mr Mattis made a surprise call for a ceasefire in Yemen and urged warring parties to enter negotiations within 30 days. "USA participation in this conflict is unauthorized and unconstitutional and must end completely", he said in a statement.

On Yemen, top administration officials have said recently it's time to end the conflict and move to a peaceful resolution.

"Trump and his administration clearly prefer to continue this devastating war because of the economic returns it produces - they drool over those arms sales profits", al-Houthi added.

Hadi had not replaced the detained minister since 2014, when the Iran-backed Houthi rebels overran the capital Sanaa.

The World Health Organization estimates almost 10,000 people have been killed since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened after Hadi fled into exile.

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