Saudi Arabia and US talk Yemen and 'global response' to coronavirus

Pompeo expressed his concern over the Covid-19 pandemic

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends a news conference at the State Department, in Washington, U.S., March 31, 2020. REUTERS/AP Photo/Andrew Harnik/ Pool
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has spoken with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, about coronavirus efforts and the war in Yemen.

“Mr Pompeo expressed his concern over the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for a global response to counter it,"

said Morgan Ortagus, the spokeswoman for the US State Department.

Saudi Arabia's Hajj Minister on Tuesday asked the more than 2 million Muslims expected to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage to temporarily defer preparations amid uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic.

Umrah pilgrimages had already been suspended.

(FILES) (COMBO) This file combination of photos created on March 07, 2020, shows a small crowd of worshippers around the sacred Kaaba in Mecca's Grand Mosque on March 7, 2020, and a large crowd during the pilgrimage, on August 13, 2019. Saudi Arabia's hajj minister asked Muslims on March 31, to temporarily defer preparations for the annual pilgrimage, after the suspension earlier this month of the year-round "umrah" visits over fears of the new coronavirus spreading to Islam's holiest cities, an unprecedented move that raised uncertainty over the annual hajj. / AFP / Abdel Ghani BASHIR

'Support for de-escalation efforts'

In the call, Mr Pompeo said he supported efforts to ease tension between the internationally recognised government and the Irani-backed Houthi rebels.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al Jaber, this week said that Riyadh had been in direct talks with the rebels since last September and invited them to the kingdom for more discussion.

The invitation for talks were “undertaken at the request” of the UN special envoy to Yemen, Mr Al Jaber said.

“The secretary and the foreign minister discussed the conflict in Yemen and agreed that only a political solution would bring about stability, peace, and prosperity," Ms Ortagus said.

"The secretary underscored that the United States strongly condemns the Houthis' attempted attacks on civilian targets in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, March 28.
"Secretary Pompeo expressed support for the de-escalation efforts led by UN special envoy Martin Griffiths.

"The secretary and the foreign minister agreed that an unstable Yemen only benefits the Iranian regime and that the regime's destabilising behaviour there must be countered.
"The Secretary underscored that the United States would continue to support Saudi Arabia in the face of Iran's threatening behaviour."
Efforts to end the conflict are being driven by Mr Griffiths, who led peace talks more than a year ago in Sweden.

An agreement was reached on a ceasefire in the port city of Hodeidah and a prisoner exchange but hostilities and mistrust stalled the process.