Saudi Arabia on Sunday accused Iran of blocking peace efforts in Yemen, slamming its political arch-rival over its support for rebels which Saudi-led forces are battling in Yemen.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir accused Tehran of smuggling arms to Yemen’s Shiite Huthi ( Houthi ) rebels, who control the capital Sanaa and northern Yemen, and to the rebels’ ally former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
“Iran is destroying all attempts to find a solution in Yemen, which has led to the failure of all political negotiations between the government and these militias,” Jubeir said in Riyadh.
He was addressing a meeting of foreign ministers and military officials from countries, including Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, which are part of the Saudi-led coalition involved in Yemen.
“These militias would not have continued operations without the support of the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world — the Iranian regime,” Jubeir said.
While Iran does not hide its support for the rebels’ cause, it has consistently denied smuggling arms to the Huthis.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalik al-Mekhlafi told the meeting the Huthis were carrying out a “sectarian project inspired by Iran” which he said sought to “topple the legitimate (Yemeni) government”.
The Yemen war has claimed more than 8,600 lives since a regional military coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, joined the Yemeni government’s fight against the rebels in 2015.
A cholera outbreak has also claimed more than 2,100 lives since April as hospitals struggle to secure supplies amid a blockades on ports and the country’s main international airport.
The United Nations has warned Yemen now stands at the brink of famine.
Multiple rounds of UN-sponsored talks on the Yemen war have failed to broker a political settlement between the Saudi-backed government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and the rebels and their allies.
Both sides in the Yemen conflict have come under harsh criticism for their neglect of civilian safety, but the Saudi-led coalition has in particular been accused of bombing schools, markets and hospitals.
The United Nations this month placed the coalition on a blacklist over its “killing and maiming of children”.
Addressing Sunday’s gathering, Saudi chief of staff, General Abdel Rahman bin Saleh al-Banyan, said Yemeni forces had regained control of “85 percent of the country” and had “spared civilians in conformity with international humanitarian law”.
The meeting comes a week after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Gulf officials in the Saudi capital for talks that largely focused on Iran’s role across the region.
The UN Human Rights Council in September agreed to send a group of experts to investigate alleged violations and abuses in Yemen, overcoming strong resistance by Saudi Arabia’s representative.