DJIBOUTI, May 6- US Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday he will discuss with Saudi Arabia the implementation of a “humanitarian pause” in military operations in Yemen in order to help aid operations.
The possibility of a halt in the US backed Saudi led coalition raids in the country comes after United Nations warnings that key infrastructure in Yemen — including water supplies and hospitals — is on the brink of collapse and that an arms embargo was hampering the delivery of aid.
“I will be there in Saudi Arabia tonight. We will be discussing the nature of the pause and how it might be implemented,” Kerry told reporters during a stop in Djibouti, were he held talks on regional security issues.
“We are deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation that is unfolding in Yemen… I am convinced of their desire to implement a pause,” Kerry said of the Saudi authorities, who are leading a coalition fighting anti-government Shiite rebels in Yemen.
“We hope that the coalition will join in working with the UN and the rest of the global community in order to find a way to deliver aid,” he said.
“For the time being the immediate crisis is the humanitarian one,” Kerry added, also announcing $68 million in humanitarian assistance to Yemen.
The Saudi led coalition of Sunni Arab countries launched air strikes in Yemen in late March against Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies after they seized control of large parts of the country, including the capital Sanaa.
The UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Johannes van der Klaauw, told AFP in Djibouti on Saturday that an arms embargo was affecting delivery of supplies, urging a humanitarian pause “at least for a couple of days”.
Thousands have fled Yemen, many to Djibouti — a tiny nation of some 850,000 people which already hosts some 28,000 mainly Somali refugees.
At its narrowest point, there are only some 30 kilometres (20 miles) between Djibouti and Yemen, across the Bab al Mandeb straits, the key shipping channel at the entrance to the Red Sea that separates Africa from Arabia.
– Key US base –
Kerry was making the first visit by a Secretary of State to Djibouti, and he thanked the former French colony for its help to US operations in the region.
Djibouti, a strategic port nation that guards the entrance to the Red Sea and Suez Canal, is also a key contributing nation to the African Union force fighting Al Qaeda affiliated Shebab insurgents in neighbouring Somalia.
Djibouti is home to Camp Lemonnier, the US military headquarters on the continent that is used for anti terror operations against Al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen, Somalia as well as for other operations across Africa.
“Djibouti thankfully is today at the forefront of our global effort against terrorism,” Kerry said after talks with President Omar Guelleh, who recently extended the lease of Camp Lemonnier.
“Because of its strategic location and its proximity to areas of concern, Djibouti is a frontline state in the efforts to stand up against terrorism. We will continue to work very closely with the Djibouti government on counterterrorism strategies for all of east Africa, for the Arabian peninsula.”
Before Djibouti, Kerry spent three days in Kenya, including a brief but symbolic trip Tuesday to the Somali capital Mogadishu, the most senior US official to visit since Washington’s doomed military intervention more than two decades ago.
After Saudi Arabia, Kerry travels onwards to France for talks on regional security, as well as to take part in commemorations marking the end of World War II in Europe.