France condemns Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

Armed drones aimed at civilian areas in kingdom were intercepted this week

In this Jan. 25, 2021 photo, Houthi supporters chant slogans as they attend a demonstration against the United States over its decision to designate the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization in Sanaa, Yemen. President Joe Biden is distancing himself from Saudi Arabia's rulers over their war in Yemen and rights abuses. That includes Biden announcing Feb. 4, 2021, he would make good on a campaign pledge to cut U.S. support for a five-year Saudi-led military campaign in neighboring Yemen.  (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
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The Iran-backed Houthi rebels must end attacks in Yemen and cease their destabilising activities in the region, the French Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

It also expressed "utmost concern for the security of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia", which on Sunday intercepted four armed drones aiming for civilian areas.

France condemned the attempted strikes "in the strongest possible terms" and called for the escalation against Saudi targets to stop.

"France calls on the Houthis to put an end to their offensive in Yemen, as well as their destabilising regional activities, and to engage in a constructive manner in a political process to resolve the crisis in Yemen," the ministry said.

The US State Department earlier condemned Houthi aggression against Saudi Arabia after the attempted attacks on Sunday.

“We call on the Houthis to immediately cease attacks impacting civilian areas inside Saudi Arabia and to halt any new military offensives inside Yemen, which only bring more suffering to the Yemeni people,” the department said.

The rebels frequently launch drone and missile attacks across the border against Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition supporting Yemen's internationally recognised government.

The war in Yemen erupted in 2014, when the Houthis seized the capital and much of the country’s north.

Heavy fighting between government forces and Houthi rebels has killed more than two dozen people in the past three days in the central Marib province, Yemeni officials and tribal leaders said on Tuesday.

The officials said at least 29 people were killed and dozens were wounded from both sides in the most recent fighting for Marib.

The rebels have sought to take control of the province, an anti-Houthi stronghold held by the government.

The UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said he was “extremely concerned” about the Houthi attacks on the province, “especially at a time of renewed diplomatic momentum” to resume talks aiming to end the war.

“A negotiated political settlement that meets the aspirations of the Yemeni people is the only sustainable solution to end this conflict,” he said on Twitter.

Mohamed Abdel Salam, a spokesman for the Houthis, denounced Mr Griffiths’ comments and called for the UN envoy to “adjust his crooked logic".

Mr Griffiths visited Iran, the main backer of the Houthis, on Saturday, as part of a broader effort to negotiate a political solution to the Yemen conflict.