Saudi Crown Prince meets with new Yemeni presidential council, pledges aid

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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with the newly-formed Yemeni presidential council, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.

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The Kingdom on Thursday welcomed the Yemeni president’s decision to transfer his powers to a new presidential council, urged the body to start negotiations with the Iran-backed Houthi militia and said it would arrange $3 billion of support to the war-torn country’s economy, state news agency SPA said.

Two billion dollars would come from Riyadh and another $1 billion from the United Emirates, which is part of an Arab coalition which backs the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi against the Houthi militia in Yemen.

Riyadh called for an international conference to support Yemen’s economy and also said it would give $300 million to the United Nations aid response to Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.

In a major breakthrough, Yemen’s warring sides agreed to a two-month truce that began on Saturday, the first since 2016.

Dismissed Vice President Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a Sunni general, is resented by the Shia Houthis for past military campaigns in their northern stronghold and by southerners for his leading role in the 1994 north-south civil war.

“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 on state television. His government was ousted from the capital, Sanaa, by the Houthis in late 2014.

Saudi Arabia called on the council to “start negotiations with the Houthis under United Nations auspices for a final and comprehensive solution.”

The new leadership council, made up of a chair and seven deputy chairmen, will be led by Rashad Al-Alimi, who enjoys Saudi support and has a close relationship with the major political grouping, the Islah party.

Deputy chairs include the leader of southern separatist group, the Southern Transitional Council, Aidarous al-Zubaidi, who is backed the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia and coalition partner UAE will each inject $1 billion into Yemen’s central bank and the kingdom will grant an additional $1 billion for petroleum products and development, said a statement on Saudi state media.

The war has killed tens of thousands and devastated the economy, leaving 80 percent of the population of some 30 million people reliant on aid.

Riyadh, which last deposited funds into the Aden-based central bank in 2018, has struggled to exit the conflict, which is widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Hadi took the helm of a crumbling Yemeni state in 2012 in a political transition plan backed by Gulf states after Arab Spring protests in 2011 that brought down President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The United Nations is pushing for inclusive political negotiations to end the conflict in which several Yemeni factions are vying for power.

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