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Mattis issues warning against ‘Iranian-supplied’ Houthi missiles fired into Saudi Arabia

Saudi Armed Forces Chief of Joint Staff Gen. Abdul Rahman Al-Banyan receives US Defense Secretary James Mattis at King Salman Air Base in Riyadh, Tuesday. (AP)

RIYADH: Iranian supplied missiles being fired by the Houthis into Saudi Arabia must be brought to an end, Jim Mattis said on Tuesday as he made his first trip as US defense secretary to Saudi Arabia.

“It has gone on for a long time, and this is something, with the number of innocent people dying inside Yemen, it has simply got to be brought to an end,” Mattis told reporters on his way to Riyadh.

He said political solution via UN-brokered negotiations is needed to resolve the conflict in Yemen. 

At the same time, officials have said the US is considering deepening its role in the conflict by more directly aiding its Gulf allies, which are fighting Iran-supported Houthi militias.

Political analyst Hamdan Al-Shehri said the international community should be clearer in identifying the party that keeps obstructing a peaceful solution to the Yemeni crisis.

“The Houthis realize that a peaceful solution will mean an end to the Iranian expansionist project in Yemen and the region,” he told Arab News.

“Iran has been spreading chaos and havoc in several regional countries, including Yemen. The Houthis and ousted Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh are like puppets controlled by Iran; they do what the Iranians tell them to do.” 

Al-Shehri also blamed the international community for not fulfilling its duties by implementing UN Security Council resolution 2216, which calls for a peaceful settlement based on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative and the outcome of Yemeni national dialogue, and requests that the Houthis hand over their weapons to the legitimate government.

He said Mattis’ statement indicates that the US administration is keen to address the Yemeni crisis, and is willing to be more engaged in a serious settlement to end it.

Mattis’ visit to Saudi Arabia is part of a tour of the Middle East and Africa, with a focus on the strategic alliance and strengthening security cooperation.

“Secretary Mattis began his trip with Saudi Arabia Tuesday, where he is scheduled to have a series of meetings with key international counterparts in order to strengthen commitments to the US-Saudi security partnership,” Johann Schmonsees, press attache at the US Embassy in Riyadh, told Arab News.

Mattis said en route to the Kingdom: “Saudi Arabia has been a key security ally for more than seven decades.”

The Kingdom remains a “pillar of our security framework for the region and for American interests,” he told reporters traveling with him.

The Defense Department said discussions with King Salman and senior Saudi officials will include the country’s security situation and “how we can deepen and broaden our strategic relationship with them.”

After meeting with King Salman and senior Saudi officials, Mattis will hold talks with top political and military leaders in Egypt, Qatar, Israel and Djibouti on the weeklong trip to the region, as the Trump administration aims to reset Washington’s relations with traditional allies in the Middle East.

The tour aims to reaffirm key US military alliances, engage with strategic partners in the Middle East and Africa, and discuss cooperative efforts to counter destabilizing activities and defeat terror organizations, including expanding the US-led coalition against Daesh and combatting Al-Qaeda, the Defense Department said.

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