RIYADH - Saudi Arabia on Sunday accused Iran of blocking peace efforts in Yemen , slamming its political arch-rival over its support for rebels which Saudi-led forces are battling in Yemen .

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir accused Tehran of smuggling arms to Yemen 's Shiite Huthi rebels, who control the capital Sanaa and northern Yemen , and to the rebels' ally former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"Iran is destroying all attempts to find a solution in Yemen , which has led to the failure of all political negotiations between the government and these militias," Jubeir said in Riyadh.

He was addressing a meeting of foreign ministers and military officials from countries, including Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, which are part of the Saudi-led coalition involved in Yemen . "These militias would not have continued operations without the support of the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world - the Iranian regime," Jubeir said.

While Iran does not hide its support for the rebels' cause, it has consistently denied smuggling arms to the Huthis.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalik al-Mekhlafi told the meeting the Huthis were carrying out a "sectarian project inspired by Iran " which he said sought to "topple the legitimate (Yemeni) government".The Yemen war has claimed more than 8,600 lives since a regional military coalition, led by Saudi Arabia , joined the Yemeni government's fight against the rebels in 2015.

A cholera outbreak has also claimed more than 2,100 lives since April as hospitals struggle to secure supplies amid a blockades on ports and the country's main international airport.

The United Nations has warned Yemen now stands at the brink of famine.

Multiple rounds of UN-sponsored talks on the Yemen war have failed to broker a political settlement between the Saudi-backed government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and the rebels and their allies. Both sides in the Yemen conflict have come under harsh criticism for their neglect of civilian safety, but the Saudi-led coalition has in particular been accused of bombing schools, markets and hospitals.

The United Nations this month placed the coalition on a blacklist over its "killing and maiming of children".

Addressing Sunday's gathering, Saudi chief of staff, General Abdel Rahman bin Saleh al-Banyan, said Yemeni forces had regained control of "85 percent of the country" and had "spared civilians in conformity with international humanitarian law". The meeting comes a week after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Gulf officials in the Saudi capital for talks that largely focused on Iran 's role across the region.

The UN Human Rights Council in September agreed to send a group of experts to investigate alleged violations and abuses in Yemen , overcoming strong resistance by Saudi Arabia 's representative.

Meanwhile, beyond air raids, gun battles and port blockades, food is now a "weapon of war" in Yemen , the UN's World Food Programme said on Sunday, as millions face impending famine.

"Yemen is on the brink of famine. Cholera is compounding a dramatic food crisis. Food is being used as a weapon of war," WFP assistant executive director Elisabeth Rasmussen said at a conference on aid to Yemen hosted by Saudi Arabia .

The Yemen conflict has claimed more than 8,650 lives since 2015, when a powerful military coalition led by Saudi Arabia joined the government's fight against Iran-backed Huthi rebels and their ally, strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Long the most impoverished country in the Arab world, the conflict in Yemen has left seven million people at risk of famine and an estimated 17 million - 60 percent of the overall population - food insecure, according to the United Nations.

Another 2,100 people have died of cholera since April as hospitals struggle to secure basic supplies amid blockades on ports and the country's main international airport.

Both sides in the conflict stand accused of failing to protect civilians in what the UN has called the "largest humanitarian crisis in the world".

The Saudi-led coalition, which controls Yemen 's airspace and some ports, was this month added to a UN blacklist for the "killing and maiming of children".

While the roads inside the Yemeni capital are controlled by the Huthis and former president Saleh, travel to Sanaa airport is under the control of the coalition and limited to a select few aid flights.

Aid groups have warned that the closure of Sanaa international airport is hampering the delivery of desperately needed supplies, which now have to go through the Red Sea port of Hodeida.

"All parties to the conflict must provide safe, rapid, unhindered and sustained humanitarian access to people in need, through all ports and airports, in particular through Hodeida port and Sanaa airport as well as by road," said Mark Lowcock, UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs.

"People in positions of authority in Sanaa regularly deny access to humanitarian agencies and have arbitrarily delayed or denied dozens of requests for humanitarian personnel to enter the country," Lowcock said.