Donald Trump calls on Saudi Arabia to end Yemen blockade immediately

People load belongings on a van as they evacuate their house located on a street where Houthis have recently clashed with forces loyal to slain Yemeni former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Dec 6, 2017.
People load belongings on a van as they evacuate their house located on a street where Houthis have recently clashed with forces loyal to slain Yemeni former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Dec 6, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - President Donald Trump called on Saudi Arabia to immediately end a blockade of Yemen that is preventing people in the war-torn country from receiving essential supplies, a rare criticism of a key US ally.

The blockade of Yemen's Red Sea ports has raised the threat of widespread famine. Two out of three Yemenis struggle to get enough food to survive.

Trump said in a statement on Wednesday that he had asked US officials "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," Trump added.

The President's statement appeared to be a veiled criticism of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who has led the kingdom's campaign in Yemen and has been publicly praised by Trump for his efforts to clamp down on terrorism and corruption.

Trump issued the statement shortly after he announced the US was recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move widely opposed in the Middle East.

A Saudi-led coalition in Yemen fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in a civil war has already produced what the United Nations calls the world's biggest humanitarian crisis.

The US is supporting the Saudi coalition with assistance including refueling planes carrying out airstrikes and sharing intelligence. The US has also carried out drone strikes against terrorist camps in the country.

At least 14,000 people have been killed or wounded since the Saudi-led offensive began in March 2015. Nearly one million people have contracted cholera, and three million, out of a population of 28 million, are internally displaced, according to the UN.

Yemen is already the poorest country in the Middle East.