The United States is halting refueling of aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition engaged in Yemen, the United States and Saudi Arabia said on Friday, ending one of the most divisive aspects of U.S. assistance to the Saudi war effort.
Saudi Arabia, in a statement released by its embassy in Washington, said it had decided to request an end to U.S. aerial refueling for its operations in Yemen because it could now handle it by itself.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis backed the decision and said the U.S. government was consulted.
The move comes at a time of international outrage over the murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and after Democratic and Republican lawmakers threatened to take action in Congress next week over the refueling operations.
Critics of the Saudi campaign — including Democrats who won control of the House of Representatives in elections on Tuesday — have long questioned U.S. involvement in the war, which has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and led to widespread famine in Yemen since it began in 2015.
"I've been calling for this for over three years," said Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California.
"We shouldn't be supporting coalition war crimes and I look forward to continuing to scrutinize the U.S.'s role in Yemen when we're in the majority next Congress."
Even as President Donald Trump's administration has condemned Khashoggi's murder, the White House has sought to preserve its relationship with Saudi Arabia.
A coordinated decision by Washington and Riyadh to halt the refueling could be an attempt by both countries to forestall further action by Congress.
Senators Todd Young, a Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, had warned the Trump administration was running out of time to act.
"If the administration does not take immediate steps ... we are prepared to take additional action when the Senate comes back into session," Young and Shaheen said.