Yemen's Houthis Released Two US Citizens, John Kerry Says
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - US secretary of state John Kerry said on Saturday that Yemen’s Houthis had released two US citizens.
The announcement comes days after the US’s first direct involvement in the country’s 19-month-old conflict. The US has been backing a Saudi Arabian-led coalition in its bid to restore power to Yemen’s fugitive former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi who fled the country after Houthis captured capital Sana’a.
Kerry would not identify the two Americans, who he said were freed on Saturday as part of complicated diplomatic arrangement that included airlifts for Yemenis wounded by an airstrike this past week by the Saudi-led coalition. Those individuals were taken to Oman for treatment.
Speaking to reporters in Switzerland, Kerry said a plane flew the Houthi delegation back to Yemen from the Omani capital, Muscat, and returned with people wounded in the strike, which hit a funeral hall.
“This is something we’ve been working on for the last days,” Kerry said. He added that US was “very pleased” with the release.
Peace talks broke down two months ago, at which point Saudi forces, backed by the US, increased airstrikes, but Kerry said he had spoken with Saudi diplomats and the UN envoy to Yemen.
He said the diplomats were "continuing to work very hard to get a framework in Yemen that creates a dynamic that allows [negotiators] to get back to the table. It remains a top priority for us to try to end the violence and get to the table as soon as possible."
“We recognize the humanitarian gesture by the Houthis in releasing these US citizens,” Mark Toner, deputy state department spokesperson, said in a statement. “We call for the immediate and unconditional release of any other US citizens who may still be held.”
Kerry said the US was pushing for a ceasefire in Yemen that would allow the country’s fugitive former government and the Houthis to return to negotiations.
The Saudi government, which entered the war shortly after it began, has faced repeated accusations that its campaign has breached international humanitarian law, and last month the Guardian published data indicating that more than a third of the coalition’s airstrikes had hit civilian sites such as school buildings, hospitals, markets, mosques and economic infrastructure.