Yemen’s President Hands Power to New Body as His Saudi Backers Seek to End War

Yemens President Hands Power to New Body as His Saudi

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Yemen’s exiled president stepped down on Thursday and passed power to a presidential council, a sweeping reshuffle supported by Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies and aimed at jump-starting efforts to end the seven-year war that has roiled the Arabian Peninsula.

The president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, announced his abdication only days after a two-month cease-fire took effect, another sign that Saudi Arabia and its allies may be looking for a pathway out of the bloodshed. Mr. Hadi delegated the new presidential council to run the government and lead peace talks with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels who control Sana, Yemen’s capital, and the country’s northwest.

The move was the most significant effort to reorganize the anti-Houthi forces in Yemen since the war began. But analysts raised questions about how effective it would be at pushing the peace process forward given the divergent positions of the council’s eight members.

“Quite clearly this is an attempt, perhaps a last ditch effort, to reconstitute something resembling unity within the anti-Houthi alliance,” Gregory Johnsen, a former member of United Nations Panel of Experts for Yemen, wrote on Twitter. “The problem is that it is unclear how these various individuals, many of whom have diametrically opposing views, can work together.”

The new push to end the war follows seven years of grinding combat that have shattered the Yemeni state, spawned one the world’s worst humanitarian crises and undermined the security of rich, oil-producing gulf monarchies allied with the United States.

Yemen’s war began in 2014 when the Houthis seized Sana and the northwest, sending the government, and Mr. Hadi, into exile. Months later, an Arab military coalition led by Saudi Arabia began a vast bombing campaign intended to push the Houthis back and restore the government.

But the conflict settled into a stalemate and grew into an increasingly vicious proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its allies and Iran, which has helped the Houthis develop sophisticated drones and missiles that have struck deep inside of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, another member of the coalition, damaging oil infrastructure.

After initially telling the United States that the coalition could swiftly defeat the Houthis, Saudi officials have been looking more recently for ways to end the war, which has tarred the kingdom’s reputation and taxed its finances.

Mr. Hadi’s abdication appeared to have been brokered, if not orchestrated, by Saudi Arabia, which has been hosting hundreds of Yemenis representing different political groups in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, since last week for talks scheduled to conclude on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates welcomed the transition with a promise of $3 billion in aid for the Yemeni government, including $1 billion to shore up the Yemeni central bank, which has failed to keep the value of the national currency from plummeting.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, met with the presidential council’s members on Thursday. Images distributed by the Saudi state-run news service showed him shaking their hands and exchanging cheek kisses.

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