At an apparent turning point in one of its hardest foreign policy challenges, the Trump administration is demanding a ceasefire and the launch of UN-led political talks to end the Saudi-Iran proxy war in Yemen. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called for a halt to hostilities within 30 days. The renewed diplomatic drive reflects a convergence of political pressures: international outrage over the slaying of a US-based Saudi journalist and a Yemeni humanitarian crisis fueled by the dual threats of war and hunger in the Arab world's poorest country, the AP reports. "The time is now for a cessation of hostilities," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement late Tuesday. The conflict, which began in 2014, has killed around 10,000 people and left more than 8 million at risk of starvation.
The administration's new push comes amid mounting fears of a fresh Arab coalition assault on the Red Sea port of Hodeida, the entry point for 70% of food imports and international aid to Yemen. Pompeo urged a cease-fire between the Saudi-led coalition allied with the government and Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels, citing both missile and drone strikes into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates by Houthis and the airstrikes "in all populated areas" of Yemen by the US-backed Arab coalition. He urged implementation of "confidence-building measures" to address the underlying issues of the conflict. The United Kingdom joined calls for a ceasefire Wednesday, the New York Times reports. (UN investigators say all parties in the conflict have committed atrocities.)