Yemen president cedes powers to council amid efforts to end war

Riyadh announced $3 billion in financial aid to the Saudi-backed government after the announcement by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. It called for talks with the Houthi group that controls the north and has been battling a Saudi-led coalition.

Yemen’s warring sides, in a major breakthrough, agreed on a two-month truce that began on Saturday, the first since 2016. The deal eased a coalition blockade on areas held by the Houthis, who ousted Hadi’s government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014.

“I irreversibly delegate to the Presidential Leadership Council my full powers in accordance with the constitution and the Gulf Initiative and its executive mechanism,” Hadi, who is based in Riyadh, said on state television.

Hadi took the helm of a crumbling state a decade ago in a Gulf-backed transition plan after protests that brought down President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was later killed.

Analysts say the new council aims to unify anti-Houthi ranks by giving more parties a seat at the table. With Hadi effectively out of the equation and his controversial deputy dismissed, the hope is the Houthis may also be more amenable.

Riyadh, which has struggled to exit the war in Yemen, urged the new council to negotiate with the Iran-aligned Houthis under UN auspices “for a final and comprehensive solution”.

Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam said in a statement that Yemen’s future should be decided inside the country. He did not respond, when asked by Reuters, on whether the group would accept an invitation for talks with the council.

“Any activity outside Yemen’s borders is merely a farce and recreation by aggressor nations,” he said.

Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was shown in a video on state media meeting with the new eight-member council, led by Rashad Al-Alimi, who has close ties with both Riyadh and major Yemeni bloc the Islamist Islah party.

The new body includes several leaders of United Arab Emirates-backed factions, including Aidarous al-Zubaidi of the separatist Southern Transitional Council, which distrusts Islah and vied with Hadi’s government for control of Aden.

Dismissed vice president Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, an Islamist-leaning general, is resented by the Houthis for military campaigns in their northern stronghold and by some southerners for his role in the 1994 north-south civil war. The war has killed tens of thousands, devastated the economy and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

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