The U.S. State Department says Secretary of State Antony Blinken has “strongly condemned” recent attacks against Saudi territory from “Iranian-aligned groups” in the region, and discussed cooperation to end the war in Yemen in a call with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister.
During his March 22 conversation with Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Blinken also “reiterated our commitment to supporting the defense” of U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, the department said in a statement.
It said the two discussed “their close cooperation to support the efforts of UN Special Envoy Griffiths and U.S. Special Envoy Lenderking to end the conflict in Yemen, starting with the need for all parties to commit to a cease-fire and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid."
The phone call came as Saudi Arabia presented a new peace initiative to end the Yemeni conflict, widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, including a nationwide cease-fire under UN supervision and the reopening of air and sea links.
The offer was welcomed by the UN and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government based in the southern port of Aden, but the Iranian-aligned Shi’ite Huthi rebels said the initiative provided "nothing new" as did not appear to go far enough to lift a blockade.
Deputy State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter welcomed the commitment of Riyadh and Yemen's internationally recognised government to a cease-fire and negotiations.
The Saudi initiative would include the reopening of Sanaa airport, and would allow fuel and food imports through Hodeidah port, both of which are controlled by the Huthis.
Saudi Arabia has been under increasing pressure to put an end to the six-year Yemeni conflict since U.S. President Joe Biden signaled Washington would no longer support Riyadh's military intervention in the country.
Yemen was plunged into a civil war in 2015 that has killed some 130,000 people and displaced more than 3 million Yemenis.
The Huthis have launched drone and missile attacks targeting the Saudi kingdom's oil infrastructure and other sites.
Earlier this month, the UN said around 16 million Yemenis, more than half the population, were going hungry. Of those, 5 million are on the brink of famine.
In its statement, the U.S. State Department said Blinken and his Saudi counterpart also discussed “the importance of stabilizing the Yemeni economy.”
The state secretary “underscored the importance of continued progress on human rights and expressed support for Saudi Arabia’s ongoing social and economic reforms,” it said.