New US secretary of state sets agenda

Antony Blinken touches on Yemen and the Abraham Accord

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New US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday laid out his vision for America's foreign policy and promised a more transparent office than his predecessor.

After not quite a full day in the job, Mr Blinken addressed and took questions from the press, and said his office would hold daily briefings.

He said his department was reviewing many last-minute decisions made by the Trump administration, including its decision to designate Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis as a foreign terrorist organisation.

“It is vitally important even in the midst of this crisis that we do everything we can to get humanitarian assistance to the people of Yemen who are in desperate need," Mr Blinken said.

"And what we want to make sure is that any steps we are taking do not get in the way of providing that assistance."

The Houthis control the capital Sanaa and much of the country’s north after a coup in 2015.

The internationally recognised government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi sought the help of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states to remove the rebels from the capital.

At the time of the administration's designation, fears were expressed of a backlash from the Houthis that would further hamper the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Mr Blinken said his goal was to make sure the previous administration's decision did not make things worse for Yemeni citizens.

"We want to make sure that any of these steps, including the designation, do not make what is already an incredibly difficult task even more difficult, that is the provision of humanitarian aid to the people of Yemen," he said.

"So we are taking a very urgent and very close look at that.”

Mr Blinken reaffirmed his support for the Abraham Accord between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain.

“We think that Israel normalising relations with its neighbours and other countries in the region is a very positive development and we applaud them and we hope that there may be an opportunity to build on them in the months and years ahead.”

Mr Blinken also touched on Russia's treatment of Alexei Nalvany, the future of the US relationship with Iran, the Afghan-Taliban talks and America's complex relationship with China.

He said fighting climate change would be at the centre of America’s foreign policy under the new administration.