US Secretary of State John Kerry held talks today with officials in Oman on efforts to end Yemen’s 19-month conflict, state media in Muscat said. Kerry and Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi discussed the “peaceful and humanitarian role played by the sultanate in Yemen,” ONA state news agency reported. Kerry later met with Oman’s ruler Sultan Qaboos with whom he discussed “regional and international developments,” ONA said.
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The visit to Oman is one of Kerry’s last trips as secretary of state before President Barack Obama’s administration steps down in January. The US chief diplomat has been pushing for a settlement in Yemen, where a deadly conflict between Iran-backed rebels and the government escalated after a Saudi-led coalition intervened on behalf of the government in March 2015. Oman, one of the few Arab states to have good relations with Iran, has used its links to mediate peace talks between the insurgents and the UN-recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
It is also the only Arab nation in the Gulf which is not taking part in the coalition, although it maintains good relations with regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia. More than 7,000 people have been killed and nearly 37,000 wounded in Yemen since March 2015, and the UN says millions are in need of food aid. Another 21 million people urgently need health services, according to the UN health agency.
Today, 12 civilians, including a child, were killed in an air raid that targeted a convoy of three lorries in central Ibb province, while nine rebels were killed in an ambush in the same region, military and medical sources said. Five other rebels, three soldiers and one civilian were killed Sunday in renewed violence in the southwestern province of Taez, military sources said. After Oman, Kerry will travel to Abu Dhabi for talks on regional conflicts, including Syria.