Efforts Underway to Aid Civilians in Colombia, Yemen, Mattis Says


Progress is being made to assist civilians in several parts of the world, including in Colombia and Yemen, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said.

The USNS Comfort, a hospital ship, is now docked in Colombia as part of an 11-week voyage to ports of call that have so far included Peru and Ecuador, said Mattis, speaking at a Pentagon press briefing today.

Thus far, 14,500 people have been treated by a team of doctors and other health providers aboard the ship from 10 partner nations, he said, adding that it’s an international mission.

Colombia, in particular, needs the aid because there are over a million refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis and violence in neighboring Venezuela, Mattis said. Other countries such as Brazil, have also taken in a number of refugees.

Mattis said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is “creating a refugee crisis of enormous proportions for our friends and partners … and destabilizing neighboring nations.”

Fighting in Yemen

Meanwhile in Yemen, progress is being made to end the fighting, Mattis said. In recent days, the level of fighting has decreased considerably.

Peace talks will take place in Sweden in early December, with representatives present from the Houthi rebel side; the government of Yemen, under the leadership of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi; and Martin Griffiths, the United Nations special envoy.

Mattis credited Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for being “fully onboard” with this effort.

Also, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are providing relief supplies to feed about 10 million Yemenis for a 30-day period. The aid will be distributed by local and international nongovernmental organizations. This is just the initial effort, he added.

The Saudis also approved moving wounded Houthi rebels to hospitals for treatment.

In Afghanistan, the Saudis, assisted by the UAE, Qatar and others are also working to get reconciliation talks going with the government and the Taliban, he added.

(Follow David Vergun on Twitter: @VergunDoD)