Yemen Conflict: Iran Urges Aid Effort As Saudi Air Strikes End

Iran’s foreign minister has called for “urgent humanitarian assistance” in Yemen after a Saudi-led coalition ended air strikes against Houthi rebels.Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Saudi move was “positive” and urged talks and the formation of a new government.

Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia has accused Shia-led Iran of backing the Houthis, something Tehran denies.

Saudi defence chiefs said the focus would now shift towards finding a political solution to the crisis.

But they said military force would still be used when needed.

Mr Zarif tweeted: “Positive developments in Yemen should be followed by urgent humanitarian assistance, intra-Yemeni dialogue and broad-based govt. Ready to help.”

Iran’s foreign ministry had earlier welcomed the Saudi announcement.

“Before this, we said the crisis in Yemen had no military solution, and… a halt to killing innocent and defenceless people is absolutely a step forward,” a spokeswoman said, according to the semi-official Isna news agency.

Yemen has been in chaos since Houthi, or Zaidi Shia, rebels, seized the capital, Sanaa, in January and placed President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi under house arrest.

Mr Hadi escaped and fled to the southern port city of Aden in February. He left the country at the end of March when the Houthis, backed by army units supporting former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, reached the outskirts of Aden.

The Saudi-led coalition said its operation Decisive Storm had achieved its goals, “removing the threat to Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries”.

Coalition spokesman Brig-Gen Ahmed al-Asiri said a new phase called Restoring Hope was beginning with the aim of stopping Houthi rebels from “targeting civilians or changing realities on the ground”.

He said Decisive Storm had ended at the request of the “legitimate” Yemeni government.

In a televised speech, Mr Hadi thanked his Saudi allies for supporting him as Yemeni president.

“I express the deepest gratitude and respect to our Arab and Muslim brothers and friends in this exceptional strategic alliance in my name and on behalf of the Yemeni people,” he said.

The US also welcomed the Saudi decision to end air strikes and urged talks to end the crisis.

“We continue to support the resumption of a UN-facilitated political process and the facilitation of humanitarian assistance,” National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey said.

The BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, says that although the Saudis have claimed victory in the first stage of their campaign, the Yemeni government has not been restored and the Houthi militia still controls the capital.

The US has been increasingly concerned about the costs of the bombing campaign, he adds, especially the number of civilians being killed.

The World Health Organization says that 944 people were reported killed and 3,487 wounded in the four weeks up to Friday.

The US has also sent two warships – the USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Normandy – to the region.

The Pentagon said the ships were to ensure freedom of navigation but were also watching a flotilla of Iranian cargo vessels that had approached Yemen.

On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama warned Iran not to send weapons to Yemen.

“What we’ve said to them is that, If there are weapons delivered to factions within Yemen that could threaten navigation, that’s a problem,” he said.

“And we’re not sending them obscure messages. We send them very direct messages about it.”

The UN Security Council has imposed an arms embargo on the rebels.

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