US welcomes Saudi’s ‘decision’ to independently refuel planes engaged in Yemen war

WASHINGTON: The US has welcomed Saudi Arabia’s “decision” to cease taking American support and instead use its own military capabilities for refuelling aircraft from the Riyadh-led coalition engaged in the Yemen war.
The US has provided refuelling to about 20 per cent of the Saudi-led coalition planes flying sorties over Yemen.
“We support the decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after consultations with the US Government, to use the Coalition’s own military capabilities to conduct inflight refueling in support of its operations in Yemen,” US Defence Secretary James Mattis said in a statement late Friday.
The US’ statement came after the Saudi Arabia said that “in consultation with the US” it has asked for “cessation of inflight refueling support” from America.
A statement, released by the Saudi Press agency, said Saudi Arabia and its allies were able to “increase their capacity” of refuelling their aircrafts, and will do so independently.
The Saudi’s move followed a report in the Washington Post that the US was to stop refuelling aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition, amidst ongoing international outcry over Riyadh’s actions in Yemen, particularly after a series of coalition strikes in which scores of civilians, including several children, were killed.
The move also came at a time when Riyadh is facing international outrage over the murder of US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“We are all focused on supporting resolution of the conflict, led by UN special envoy Martin Griffiths,” Mattis said.
He said the US will continue working with the coalition to minimise civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts in Yemen.
Besides refuelling, the US provides intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition and sells it weaponry used in Yemen’s war.
“The US and the coalition are planning to collaborate on building up legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, secure their country’s borders, and contribute to counter Al Qaeda and ISIS efforts in Yemen and the region,” Mattis said in the statement.