Iran’s Zarif urges immediate humanitarian help in Yemen – Reuters

* Welcomes Saudi announcement of end to military operation

* Saudi Arabia said it would back political solution

* Fighting, strikes forced 150,000 to flee – U.N.

April 22 (Reuters) – Iran’s foreign minister on Wednesday
welcomed an announcement by Saudi Arabia of an end to a military
operation against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, saying
there should now be urgent humanitarian help and political talks
to resolve the conflict.

Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday it was ending a month-long
campaign of air strikes against the Houthi rebels who seized
large areas of Yemen. Riyadh also said it would back a political
solution to bring peace to its war-damaged neighbour.

Iran, which has backed the Houthis, had repeatedly said it
would support a political solution to restore peace in Yemen.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Saudi
move was “positive” and urged talks and the formation of a new

“Positive developments in Yemen should be followed by urgent
humanitarian assistance, intra-Yemeni dialogue and broad-based
govt (government). Ready to help,” Zarif said in a message on
his Twitter account.

The United States and Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia
have accused Shi’ite-dominated Iran of supporting the Houthis.
Iran denies the claim.

Saudi Arabia said a new phase called “Operation Restoring
Hope” was beginning, which would combine political, diplomatic
and military action but would focus on “the political process
that will lead to a stable and secure future for Yemen”.

Saudi spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said the
alliance may still target Houthis. “The coalition will continue
to prevent the Houthi militias from moving or undertaking any
operations inside Yemen,” he told reporters in Riyadh on

A spokeswoman for Iran’s foreign ministry on Tuesday said “a
halt to killing innocent and defenceless people is absolutely a
step forward”, Iranian media reported.

Yemen is home to one of the most lethal branches of al
Qaeda, sheltering in tribal regions and targeted for years by
U.S. drone strikes.

The United Nations said about 150,000 people had been driven
from their homes by three weeks of air strikes and ground
fighting, with more than 750 people killed.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by William Maclean and
Andrew Heavens)