DJIBOUTI, DJIBOUTI —
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said talks about a "humanitarian pause" in Yemen would be a focal point of his meetings Wednesday with Saudi officials.
Kerry said that while in Riyadh, he would discuss the nature of a pause and how it might be implemented.
The secretary of state spoke from Djibouti, where he held meetings with President Ismail Omar Guelleh and other officials. Kerry said Somalia and Yemen’s unrest were among the issues they discussed.
Djibouti has played a key role in hosting Americans and other foreigners fleeing from violence in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels who have taken control of some parts of the country.
Kerry said there are indications that parties involved in Yemen’s conflict are ready to consider a humanitarian pause.
“In my conversation yesterday with another foreign minister from another country, there was an indication that others, the Houthi, might be willing to engage in a pause,” he said.
Kerry made his remarks during a joint appearance with Djibouti’s Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf.
US aid to Yemen
During the appearance, he also announced the U.S. would provide another $68 million in humanitarian assistance to Yemen. The money will be used to provide food, water, shelter, medical care and other aid.
“Millions of vulnerable people urgently need help,” the secretary said.
The State Department said the money would help humanitarian organizations, which have been hampered by fuel shortages in the country, meet the needs of nearly 16 million people in Yemen affected by the country’s crisis, including about 300,000 who have been internally displaced.
Ahead of Kerry’s arrival in Djibouti, a senior State Department official said more than 500 American citizens evacuated from Yemen had come through Djibouti, along with an equal number of family members. The official said the number of foreigners leaving Yemen has been “steady.”
Kerry thanked Guelleh and Youssouf for their assistance to Americans who sought refuge from the violence in Yemen.
In an interview with VOA's Somali service, Guelleh said the discussions with Kerry "went very well" and focused on bilateral cooperation as well as regional issues that included terrorism and piracy. He commended U.S. support to governments in the region.
Guelleh also asked Kerry to put increased effort into establishing a national army from all regions of Somalia with good training that would be ready when African Union troops leave Somalia. Otherwise, he said, "our efforts and your efforts will be incomplete.”
In addition to meeting with Djibouti officials, Kerry visited a mosque, where he talked to young people, including some who participated in the U.S.-organized Young African Leadership Initiative fellowship program.
He also met with U.S. service members at Camp Lemonnier. The U.S. base with about 4,500 personnel serves as a hub for U.S. military efforts in the Horn of Africa.
Kerry traveled to Djibouti from Kenya, where he met with the country’s political leaders and civil society members. He made a side trip to Somalia on Tuesday, becoming the first sitting U.S. secretary of state to visit the country.
After Kerry wraps up his visit to Saudi Arabia, he will travel to Paris to meet with Gulf Cooperation Council members to discuss security and regional cooperation.