President Joe Biden formally ended American support Thursday for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.
He also put a halt to any sale of related US weaponry.
Speaking at the State Department in his first major foreign policy address, Biden said he was making the change due to the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe that the Saudi offensive has greatly exacerbated.
“This war has to end, and to underscore our commitment we are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales,” he said.
Biden said the US would continue to aid Saudi Arabia as it continues to face attacks on its soil from Yemen’s Houthi rebels and that Washington would help Riyadh “defend its sovereignty, and its territorial integrity, and its people.”
The US will also step up its diplomatic efforts to end the war, bolstering its support for UN-led initiatives to impose a nationwide cease-fire, and resume long-stalled peace talks. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has tapped Tim Lenderking, a career diplomat, to lead the push as the US’s new special envoy for the conflict.
Saudi Arabia’s campaign against the Houthis has prompted widespread humanitarian outcry amid repeated atrocities, including the 2016 targeting of a funeral in Sana’a, the rebel-controlled capital, that killed more than 100 victims.
The Iran-backed rebel group overran much of Yemen beginning in 2014, deposing the government and sending it into exile before it returned to the port city of Aden in 2016. Political turmoil has been the rule rather than the exception since with a third separatist movement known as the Southern Transitional Council being declared in May 2017.
Political infighting has taken place amid what is widely-considered to be the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe with Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation even before the conflict, facing widespread famine.
The Saudi coalition’s actions aimed at rolling back Houthi gains have been widely criticized by rights groups for worsening the situation and the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crisis with nearly 80%, or about 30 million, Yemenis needing humanitarian assistance.
About 13 million are in danger of starvation.
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