White House applauds decision to ease Saudi blockade in Yemen

White House applauds decision to ease Saudi blockade in Yemen
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The White House on Friday applauded Saudi Arabia's decision to ease a total air and sea blockade on Yemen, and reaffirmed the United States' commitment to backing the Saudi-led coalition's efforts to beat back Iranian influence in the embattled country.

The praise from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders came days after the Saudi-led coalition said it would reopen Sanaa International Airport in Yemen, as well as the port at Hudaydah, Yemen's main port of entry for humanitarian aid.

"Full and immediate implementation of the announced measures is a first step in ensuring that food, medicine, and fuel reach the Yemeni people and that the aid organizations on the frontlines of mitigating this humanitarian crisis are able to do their essential work," she said.

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"The magnitude of suffering in Yemen requires all parties to this conflict to focus on assistance to those in need. All sides must support a political process with facilitating humanitarian relief as the top priority."

Saudi Arabia tightened a blockade on Yemen earlier this month after Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the country fired a rocket deep into the conservative Sunni Muslim country. That missile was intercepted near the airport in Riyadh.

Saudi and U.S. officials have said that the missile fired by the Houthis was manufactured in Iran.

The blockade in Yemen, however, exacerbated a humanitarian crisis there, prompting staunch criticism from aid groups and the United Nations.

Sanders also blasted Tehran on Friday, accusing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of exploiting "the grave humanitarian crisis in Yemen to advance its regional ambitions." 

"Millions of Yemenis are currently enduring severe deprivation; the United States continues to believe that this devastating conflict, and the suffering it causes, must be brought to an end through political negotiations," she said.