The Trump administration is asking Saudi Arabia to temper its actions with regard to Yemen, Qatar and Lebanon amid reports of new civilian deaths in Yemen.
Speaking in Paris on Friday, Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, called on Saudi Arabia to be “measured” in its military operations in the Arabian Peninsula country.
He declared strong American support for the kingdom’s internal reforms, which include Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s purge of powerful princes, businessmen and military officers as part of a stated anti-corruption campaign.
At the international level, however, Tillerson encouraged Saudi restraint.
“With respect to Saudi Arabia’s engagement with Qatar, how they’re handling the Yemen war that they’re engaged in, the Lebanon situation, we would encourage them to be a bit more measured and a bit more thoughtful in those actions to, I think, fully consider the consequences,” he said.
He once again demanded a “complete end” to the Saudi-led blockade of Yemen so that humanitarian aid and commercial supplies could be delivered.
Tillerson’s comments came as Yemeni officials said air strikes launched by a Saudi-led military coalition had killed at least 23 civilians, including women and children, in the country’s north.
Abdel Elah al-Ezi, head of the health directorate in the Saada, said Friday’s raids were carried out in different areas of the northern Yemeni city.
Saada is a stronghold of the Iran-aligned Shia Houthi rebels battling the internationally recognised Yemeni government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The rebel-run Sabaa news agency reported the strikes, as did tribal officials.
The Saudi-led military coalition has been at war with the Houthi rebels, resulting in food shortages, malnutrition and cholera outbreaks across Yemen.
Yemen has been in a state of civil war since 2014, when the Houthi rebels took Sanaa.
The Saudi coalition has been operating there since March 2015.
The conflict has killed more than 10,000 civilians and driven the Arab world’s poorest country towards a humanitarian disaster.
In his remarks in Paris, Tillerson said he “would encourage” the Saudis “to be a bit more measured and a bit more thoughtful in those actions, and fully consider the consequences”.
Tillerson was to hold talks with top French officials and Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s prime minister, who unexpectedly resigned from his post in November while in Saudi Arabia.
Tillerson’s comments also come after US President Donald Trump released a statement on Wednesday saying he has directed officials in his administration “to call the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to request that they completely allow food, fuel, water, and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it.
“This must be done for humanitarian reasons immediately”.