WASHINGTON (AFP) – The White House welcomed Saudi Arabia s decision to halt air strikes in Yemen on Tuesday and urged talks to end a crisis that threatened to draw regional powers into direct conflict.
“The United States welcomes today s announcement by the government of Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners of the conclusion of Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen,” National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey told AFP.
“We continue to support the resumption of a UN-facilitated political process and the facilitation of humanitarian assistance.”
A Saudi-led coalition earlier declared it was ending four weeks of air strikes, saying the threat of Iran-backed rebels there had been removed and that operations are entering a political phase.
The White House has accused Tehran of supplying weapons to a Huthi militia that has wrested control of much of the country from forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
Saudi Arabia s decision to hit back at Huthi forces had risked sparking a confrontation with Iran, long a regional adversary.
Tensions had deepened in recent days amid reports of a nine-ship Iranian convoy in the area.
The US Navy said it was sending in the USS Theodore Roosevelt and guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy to waters off Yemen.
Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said media reports suggesting the Americans were preparing to prevent the Iranian convoy from reaching Yemen if it was carrying arms were “a bit over-cranked”.
“We don t know what the Iranian convoy of ships plans to do, but we are watching them,” Warren said. “By having American sea power in the region, we preserve our options.”
According to the United Nations, 900 people have been killed in Yemen since late March, when the air strikes began.