DUBAI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will cut short his Middle East tour and head home early to attend a family funeral, an official said on Monday.
“Secretary Pompeo will return to the United States after his meetings in Muscat, Oman,” State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.
“This curtailment of travel is required so that the Pompeo family may attend a family funeral.”
The trip was cut short after Pompeo met with the Saudi king and crown prince in what is the latest stop of his Middle East tour that has so far been dominated by questions and concerns about the withdrawal of US troops from Syria.
In Riyadh, though, the Saudi-led fight against Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen, where the situation has been deemed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, will be a major agenda item, as well as holding perpetrators accountable for Khashoggi’s slaying, according to US officials.
Speaking with senior Saudi officials on his arrival in Riyadh late Sunday, Pompeo stressed the importance of supporting a political solution to end Yemen’s civil war and “the need for continued regional efforts to stand against the Iranian regime’s malign activity and to advance peace, prosperity, and security,” the State Department said.
Pompeo has accused the Houthi militia in Yemen of failing to comply with a cease-fire agreement for the flashpoint city of Hodeidah reached at UN-sponsored talks in Sweden.
“The work that was done in Sweden on Yemen was good, but both sides (need) to honor those commitments,” Pompeo said.
“Today, the Iranian-backed Houthis have chosen not to do that.”
The US embassy in Riyadh said Monday that Pompeo and Prince Mohammed “agreed on (the) need for continued de-escalation and adherence to (the) Sweden agreements,” especially the cease-fire in the lifeline port city of Hodeidah.
“A comprehensive political solution is only way to the end the conflict,” the embassy tweeted.
The department said Pompeo also made clear the importance of a credible investigation into Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October. Pompeo “emphasized the importance of Saudi Arabia continuing its investigation into the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in order to ascertain facts, assess information, and hold those responsible accountable.”
“We will continue to have a conversation with the crown prince and the Saudis about ensuring that the accountability is full and complete with respect to the unacceptable murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Pompeo told reporters in Qatar on Sunday before heading to Riyadh. “We’ll continue to talk about that and make sure we have all the facts so that they are held accountable certainly by the Saudis, but by the United States as well, where appropriate.”
The ongoing dispute between Qatar and four of America’s other close Arab partners will also feature in Pompeo’s talks as it continues to be a major hindrance in a US-led effort to unite the Gulf Arab states, Egypt and Jordan in a military alliance to counter Iran.
Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates began a boycott of Qatar in June 2017, accusing Qatar of funding extremist groups and cozying up to Iran.