(Reuters) – The head of Yemen’s new presidential council said on Friday he would end the seven-year-long war via a peace process, in his first speech since power was delegated to the body by the Saudi-backed president this week.
“The leadership council promises the people to end the war and achieve peace through a comprehensive peace process that guarantees the Yemeni people all its aspirations,” Rashad Al-Alimi said in the televised speech.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is based in Riyadh, delegated power to the council and dismissed his deputy on Thursday, as Saudi Arabia moves to strengthen an anti-Houthi alliance amid U.N.-led efforts to revive peace negotiations.
Alimi, who has close ties with both Riyadh and major Yemeni bloc the Islamist Islah party, said in his speech the council would work to deal with “challenges in all areas of Yemen without discrimination, without exception”.
The war has killed tens of thousands, devastated the economy and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine. The conflict is widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Iran-aligned Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.
Riyadh, which has struggled to exit the war in Yemen, has urged the council to negotiate with the Houthis under U.N. auspices “for a final and comprehensive solution”.
There was no immediate Houthi response to Alimi’s speech.
Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam responded to the formation of the council on Thursday by calling the move a farce and a “desperate attempt to restructure the ranks of mercenaries to push them towards further escalation.”
Saudi Arabia announced $3 billion in financial aid to the Saudi-backed government after Hadi’s announcement.
Gulf Cooperation Council ministers have expressed their support for the council and starting negotiations with Houthis under U.N. supervision “to reach a final and comprehensive political solution.”
Yemen’s warring sides have agreed on a two-month truce that began last Saturday.
(Reporting by Lilian Wagdy; Writing by Tom Perry; editing by Grant McCool)