U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, for meetings with officials as he pushed for a pause in the warfare in neighboring Yemen.
Kerry met Wednesday night with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. On Thursday, he is due to see King Salman and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, the former Saudi ambassador to the U.S. He also will meet with Yemeni President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi, who fled his country under attack from Houthi rebels.
While the U.S. has endorsed Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen and provided targeting information, Kerry has said he will urge the Saudis to consider a pause in the fighting to allow for humanitarian aid to be distributed. Aid groups have said they no longer can distribute assistance because of fuel shortages caused by a Saudi blockade.
Kerry arrived a day after Saudi Arabia convened a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council to prepare for a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington next week. The Sunni-led nations that belong to the council have expressed concern that U.S. participation in talks to curb Shiite Iran’s nuclear program reflects a broader move toward conciliation with that country.
Saudi Arabia has said Iran is backing Yemen’s Houthis, who follow an offshoot of the Shiite religion. Many Western diplomats have expressed skepticism about the extent of Iranian involvement.
Kerry arrived in Saudi Arabia from Djibouti, where he consulted with officials on the impact of refugee flows from Yemen and met with Americans who fled the fighting there. Kerry said the crisis in Yemen could be resolved only through political negotiation.