WASHINGTON: The United States urged Saudi Arabia on Sunday to recommit to an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Yemen.

The appeal for ending hostilities in the strife-torn Middle Eastern country follows a Saudi admission that misinformation and abuse of procedure resulted in the Oct 8 bombing of a funeral in Sana’a that killed 140 people.

“We urge all sides to recommit to an immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities that can lead to renewed negotiations and a political settlement that ends the conflict,” said US State Department’s deputy spokesman Mark C. Toner.

The State Department also welcomed the initial results of the joint investigation by the Saudi-led Arab coalition into the air strike, saying that it “considers it an important first step towards better understanding the events of that day.”

“Throughout this conflict we have expressed our deepest concern about the ongoing actions by all parties involved,” Mr. Toner said in a statement to the media.

He noted that the war in Yemen has “killed and injured civilians, damaged civilian infrastructure, and inflicted a heavy humanitarian toll paid by the Yemeni people.”

So far more than 4,000 non-combatants have been killed in this war.

On Saturday, the Saudi-led coalition announced initial results of its investigation, reporting that a party affiliated with the Yemeni general chief of staff headquarters misinformed coalition command that armed rebels were gathering at the location in Sana’a and insisted that the target be hit immediately.

The targeted funeral was for the father of a close ally of Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh who supports the rebel Houthi militia.

The war started last year when the Houthi militia over-ran the capital and ousted the president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

So far the United States has backed the Saudi-led coalition but the US media reported earlier this week that future American military assistance to the kingdom will now hinge on whether Riyadh embraces a Washington-backed cease-fire with Houthi rebels.

The media also reported that the White House has begun a top-to-bottom review of military aid for the kingdom, including both a massive, long-standing program of arms sales and more-limited assistance for the extended air war over Yemen.

Last week, the Pentagon launched Tomahawk cruise missiles against Houthi targets in Yemen, a response to a series of attacks this week on nearby US ships.

Since last year, US tanker planes have conducted more than 1,400 missions, offloading tens of millions of pounds of fuel. US personnel also have advised their Saudi counterparts on targeting rebels and avoiding civilian casualties.

AFP adds: The United Nations envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said: “We are here to call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, which will be declared in the next few hours.” Cheikh Ahmed said he had been in contact with the rebel Huthi militia’s lead negotiator and with Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s government.

But he also warned that he hoped for “clearer plans” for a ceasefire in coming days.

US Secretary of State John Kerry would not predict whether Yemen’s government or rebel forces had accepted the demand, but said the diplomats were not operating “in a vacuum.” “This is the time to implement a ceasefire unconditionally and then move to the negotiating table,” Kerry told reporters. Kerry was speaking after meeting Cheikh Ahmed and his opposite numbers from Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates at talks hosted by Britain in London.

Published in Dawn October 17th, 2016