US reaffirms Saudi 'defence partnership' in face of Huthi attacks
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin condemned the Huthi attacks in a telephone conversation Thursday with his Saudi counterpart, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the official Saudi Press Agency and a Pentagon statement said.
The conversation came after the White House announced on Tuesday that President Joe Biden's first telephone call to Saudi leaders would be to King Salman, and not his son, the crown prince, who is the kingdom's de facto leader but has a tarnished reputation within Biden's Democratic Party.
Two weeks after he was sworn in as president, Biden announced an end to US backing for Saudi offensive operations in Yemen's longstanding war, which he said had created a "humanitarian and strategic catastrophe."
"Secretary Austin reiterated recent changes in US policy toward the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, discussed the importance of ending the war," the Pentagon statement said.
Their backlisting in the dying days of the Trump administration was sharply criticised by relief organisations, who said it would seriously hinder aid shipments to the large swathes of Yemen controlled by the Huthis.
Yemen has been embroiled in a bloody power struggle since 2014 between its Saudi-backed government and Huthi rebels, who control the capital Sanaa and most of the north.
The grinding conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions more, triggering what the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.