Senators Ask Pompeo to Boost U.S. Support for Yemen Peace Effort

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(Bloomberg) -- A bipartisan group of U.S. senators asked Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to pressure Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s president to accept a UN envoy’s push for a broad cease-fire and move toward political talks to end the conflict.

In a letter to Pompeo on Tuesday, the nine senators said the U.S. is uniquely positioned to bring together all sides for talks given its influence with Saudi Arabia, where Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi is now based. They said the threat of Covid-19 brings new urgency to a peace process that has so far been overseen by United Nations special envoy Martin Griffiths.

“Your interventions were important to securing past interim agreements,” the group, which includes Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy and Indiana Republican Todd Young, said in a letter Tuesday. “We now believe that sustained, high-level U.S. engagement is necessary to finally put an end to this devastating civil war.”

The UN warned last month that a funding shortage may force it to close many of its programs in Yemen even as the coronavirus spreads in a country already suffering through one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions left hungry and displaced in the war, which escalated in 2015 with a campaign by a Saudi-led coalition to roll back gains being made by the Iranian-supported Houthi rebels.

“I’m confident that Secretary Pompeo understands the difference the U.S. can make in achieving a political settlement in Yemen,” Murphy said in an interview. “It’s a really critical moment right now because there’s a cease-fire deal on the table that could be the most significant breakthrough in Yemen since the war began and our leverage with the Saudis may be able to get this deal done.”

The State Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the letter. Pompeo has in the past repeatedly called on all sides to support Griffiths’s efforts, and in January called on all parties involved to exercise restraint after a surge in violence.

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