Yemen’s president announced Thursday he had formed a new council to lead the war-wracked country, state media reported, a major shake-up in the coalition battling Huthi rebels.
“I irreversibly delegate to this presidential leadership council my full powers,” President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi said in a televised statement early Thursday, the final day of peace talks held in Saudi Arabia’s capital.
Hadi’s internationally recognized government, supported by a Saudi-led military coalition, and the Iran-backed Huthi rebels have been locked in a violent power struggle since 2014, when insurgents seized the capital Sanaa.
A United Nations-brokered truce that started Saturday – the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – has offered a glimmer of hope in the conflict considered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The truce came as the peace talks were unfolding in Riyadh without the participation of the Huthis, who refused to hold talks on “enemy” territory.
Some analysts had cast doubt on what the negotiations could achieve in the absence of the Huthis, but Thursday’s news could mean sometimes fractious anti-Huthi forces are united in any future negotiations.
The new council will consist of eight members and be led by Rashad al-Alimi, a former interior minister and adviser to Hadi.
Its formation represents “the most consequential shift in the inner workings of the anti-Huthi bloc since the war began”, Peter Salisbury, senior Yemen analyst for the International Crisis Group, said on Twitter.
Yemen’s 30 million people are in dire need of assistance. A UN donors conference this month raised less than a third of the 27 4.27 billion target, prompting dark warnings for a country where 80 percent of the population depends on aid.