Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' bid to bring the warring sides in Yemen to the peace table this month has been scrapped amid an escalation of the fighting, according to the United Nations.
At a news conference in New York on Thursday, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said the effort to bring the Saudi-led coalition, backed by the U.S., and Houthi rebels together this month under the auspices of Special Envoy Martin Griffiths had been postponed.
Haq said Griffiths would press for a roundtable by the end of the year and would brief the U.N. Security Council on his efforts later this month. However, several previous attempts by Griffiths to arrange peace talks this year have failed as one side or the other refused to attend.
"There's always different challenges to bringing the parties together," Haq said.
In an address to the U.S. Institute of Peace on Oct. 30, Mattis said he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were working with Griffiths to arrange peace talks in Sweden "within 30 days."
"The longer-term solution, and by longer term I mean 30 days from now, we want to see everybody sitting around the table, based on a cease-fire, based on a pullback from the border, and then based on ceasing dropping of bombs," Mattis said, adding that Griffiths "knows what he's doing" and was attempting "to get them together in Sweden and end this war."
"We've got to move toward a peace effort here, and we can't say we're going to be doing this sometime in the future," Mattis said. "We need to be doing this in the next 30 days."
Saudi Arabia began a military campaign in 2015 to oust the Iran-backed Houthi rebels who had swept into the Yemeni capital of Sanaa to drive out the government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
The U.S. is providing the Saudis with intelligence and aerial refueling for Saudi warplanes, and has sought to give more training to Saudi pilots to avoid killing civilians.
The latest postponement of the peace talks comes as the Saudi-led coalition pressed attacks on the Red Sea port of Hodeida.
In a statement Friday, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said that much of Hodeida's civilian population is fleeing the city.
The Saudi-led military operations are "increasingly confining populations and cutting off exit routes," the statement said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.