Riyadh: Hectic discussions between the leaders of the five Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates — are continuing ahead of Camp David Summit next week.
After the Gulf Arab summit in Riyadh on May 5, the GCC foreign ministers are meeting in Paris today to draw the final agenda for next week’s GCC Summit at Camp David [†] being hosted by US President Barack Obama and also to to define the precise details and the date of the commencement of a proposed 5-day blanket ceasefire in Yemen.
The Riyadh Summit was also joined by French president Francois Hollande. France has been a tough negotiator during the ongoing talks for a nuclear deal. As a major arms supplier, France also has huge stakes as a supplier of arms to the Gulf states.
On May 6, US Secretary of State John Kerry was also engaged in bilateral talks with the the Saudi leadership. They discussed the threat to Saudi Arabia emanating from Yemen and about U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s efforts to find a peaceful resolution to this crisis.
At the the Riyadh Air base last evening,addressing the media jointly with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, the US Secretary of State told journalists that King Salman has announced a conference in Riyadh and all Yemeni parties were being invited for this crucial meeting. Extending support to this initiative, Kerry expressed the hope that it could lead to subsequent talks under the UN auspices, and the dialogue would be beneficial to find a political resolution to the (Yemen) crisis.
Praising Saudi Arabia and King Salman, for the decision to provide $274 million in humanitarian assistance to Yemen, Kerry also acknowledged in positive terms Salman’s announcement for a transition from the initial phase of the military campaign to a political and humanitarian phase.
Kerry, who met exiled Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in Riyadh, said that the Houthi (rebels) did not choose to be part of the (peace) process. “Therefore, the conflict continued and forces on the ground continued to fight, and Saudi Arabia responded, Kerry went on to observe.
Welcoming the new Saudi initiative to try to bring about a peaceful resolution through the announcement of their intent to establish a full, five-day renewable ceasefire and humanitarian pause, which would mean “no bombing, no shooting, no movement or repositioning of troops to achieve military advantage, understanding”, Kerry added there has to be an understanding that needs to be reached that neither party is going to exploit the humanitarian pause. So, Kerry, made a strong plea to the Houthis and also those who back them, not to miss this major opportunity to address the needs of the Yemeni people and find a peaceful way forward in Yemen. A ceasefire has been a longstanding goal of the international community, and we deeply respect the leadership in Saudi Arabia for stepping up, taking on this initiative, and saying to the world they’re prepared to meet the humanitarian needs of the people of Yemen, Kerry said.
Ahead of today’s Paris meet, Kerry said that there will be several days between today’s announcement (for a ceasefire in Yemen) and the actual start of the ceasefire in order to allow time for the international community to prepare the food, the medicine, and the other supplies for distribution so that it can be done in an orderly and efficient process once the ceasefire does take effect. All this would be possible only if the Houthi accept the conditions, he added.
Kerry categorically said that the United States remains deeply concerned about the situation on the ground in Yemen and fully support efforts to facilitate the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid. The international community and the United States will redouble efforts to stop arms flows into Yemen, consistent with the UN Security Council resolutions. So the bottom line is that all parties agree to the ceasefire before more lives are lost.
Kerry made an appeal to everyone, especially the Houthis – to cooperate with the UN’s new Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. This is a time for effective diplomacy for potential solutions.
During bilateral talks with Saudi leadership, Kerry also discussed the potential Iran nuclear deal and ways in which the United States and Saudi Arabia can cooperate to go forward. Kerry informed the media that throughout the P5+1 negotiating process, the US has been constantly consulting with Saudi Arabia. This matter will come up for further discussion in Paris today.
Kerry also spoke about “Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region”. We will continue to work with our friends and allies in the region to define America’s and the GCC’s security relationship going forward, he said asserting it is so important that Iran not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.
Kerry said that he and his Saudi counterpart Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir also discussed the situation in Syria, and the progress in their shared fight against Daesh. He went on to affirm that Daesh’s forces are increasingly under strain, its leadership has been degraded, their communications have been interrupted, their manner of operating has been changed, and its hateful ideology is increasingly being discredited.
When asked by a journalist whether there was any guarantee that Iran would stop supporting terrorist activities in the region, Kerry said the United States is deeply concerned about Iran’s activities in the region and was enforcing the United Nations arms embargo requirements. The US is also raising the level of effort of the maritime initiative with respect to the Gulf. Most recently, the Theodore Roosevelt has also been moved in. One of the topics of conversation, in the context of Paris tomorrow and Camp David, will be the further steps that the US will be taking with its allies to prevent activities that are in contravention of many United Nations resolutions and also the norms of international behavior between countries. He emphasised the point that the US is very much concerned about those activities – in Iraq, with Hizballah, in Yemen, and elsewhere.
Responding to a query by another journalist, the Saudi Foreign Minister al-Jubeir said with regard to Iran that it should have no role in Yemen. Stating that Iranian role in Yemen has been a negative one, he pinned Iran on a numer of counts saying they have supported the Houthis financially, ideologically, as well as with weapons, and this is not helpful. They have tried to smuggle weapons into Yemen in the midst of this conflict, and we have been able to stop aircraft from landing in Sana’a airport. And the United States has been able to turn back a flotilla of Iranian ships, which we suspect were loaded with weapons that were intended to go to the Houthis.
With respect to Syria, Kerry said, nothing has changed in the United States position. President Assad has been engaged – barrel bombing innocent women and children, gassing his people, torturing people, engaging in starvation as a tactic of war where innocent civilians are trapped – there are so many different things that have happened that have torn this country apart, that has seen three quarters of the country displaced for a refugee status…it’s hard to imagine how anybody in that country could follow that person in the future or deem them to be a legitimate leader.”
We believe Assad has lost all legitimacy, and we also know that the only way to make peace ultimately is to take away the reason that people are at war. And the reason they are at war is because of Assad, Kerry stated.
[†] President Obama will welcome leaders from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – to the White House on May 13 and to Camp David on May 14.