JEDDAH: There was an overwhelming welcome on Thursday for a new push led by Saudi Arabia to end the war in Yemen and restore stability to a country ravaged by seven years of conflict.
Yemen will be governed by a new presidential leadership council tasked with negotiating with the Iran-backed Houthi militia, and a $3 billion aid package funded by Saudi Arabia and the UAE will shore up Yemen’s devastated economy.
The new moves were welcomed by the governments of Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Djibouti, France and Russia, and by leaders of the GCC, the Arab League, the Arab Parliament and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation.
They followed a week of talks in Riyadh involving rival leaders from across Yemen’s political spectrum. As the talks ended on Thursday, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and Vice President Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar stepped aside to be replaced by the new eight-member presidential council.
“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 said.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met the council and said he hoped for a “new page” to turn in Yemen. Saudi Arabia urged the new council to negotiate with the Houthis under UN auspices “for a final and comprehensive solution” to the Yemen conflict.
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Saudi Arabia and the UAE will each inject $1 billion into Yemen’s central bank, and the Kingdom will grant an additional $1 billion in oil derivatives, development funds and a contribution to the UN aid appeal.
A further $300 million from the Kingdom has been pledged to fund the humanitarian response plan announced by the UN in 2022 to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people and improve their living conditions.
The new presidential council will be chaired by Rashad Al-Alimi, an adviser to Hadi who was interior minister in the government of the late Ali Abdullah Saleh. It includes Aydarous Al-Zubaidi, head of the separatist Southern Transitional Council; Sheikh Sultan Al-Aradah, powerful governor of energy-rich Marib province; Tariq Saleh, a militia leader and nephew of the late president; and Abdel-Rahman Abu Zarah, commander of the Giants Brigades, who played a crucial role in repelling the Houthi offensive on Marib city.
The formation of the council was “the most consequential shift in the inner workings of the anti-Houthi bloc since the war began,” said Peter Salisbury, senior Yemen analyst for the International Crisis Group.
Elisabeth Kendall, a researcher at Oxford University, said: “Something big needed to change to get the warring parties on track to a political process. This transfer of presidential powers could be it.”
GCC Secretary-General Nayef Al-Hajraf pledged the bloc’s support for the new council “in its tasks to achieve safety and security” in Yemen.
France also said it welcomed the creation of the council, which it said was “an important step toward restoring a state that serves all Yemenis and is engaged in the political process.”