Middle East

UN peace plan for Yemen appears to sideline exiled president

A U.N. peace proposal to end a 19-month war in Yemen appears aimed at sidelining exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and setting up a government of less divisive figures, according to a copy of the plan seen by Reuters.

Hadi fled the armed advance of the Iranian-allied Houthi movement in March 2015 and has been a guest of neighbor in Saudi Arabia ever since.

A U.N. Security Council resolution a month later recognized him as the legitimate head of state and called on the Houthis to disarm and quit Yemen's main cities.

But the Houthis and their allies in Yemen's army have said he will never return, accusing him and his powerful vice president, Ali Mushin al-Ahmar, of corruption.

The latest peace plan submitted by U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed suggests Ahmar would step down and Hadi would agree to become little more than a figurehead after a Houthi withdrawal from the capital Sanaa.

It was not immediately clear if the men had been consulted on the plan. But their supporters have in the past insisted that past agreements recognizing Hadi as leader must be respected.

"As part of the signing of a complete and comprehensive agreement, the current Vice President will resign and President Hadi will appoint a new Vice President," the document says.

"After the completion of the withdrawal from Sanaa and the handing over of heavy and medium weapons (including ballistic missiles) Hadi will transfer all his powers to a Vice President, and the Vice President will appoint a new Prime Minister … (who will form) a national unity government," it added.

The proposal would technically confirm Hadi in office, as stipulated by the U.N. resolution, but leave him in reality with only a symbolic role.

A Yemeni government spokesman did not immediately comment on the initiative, but government officials say they are unwilling to legitimize what they see as a Houthi "coup".

"We emphasize our conviction that all proposals are doomed to failure if (they don’t reject the) excesses of the coup, which is the mother of all these calamities and the root of the evils," Abdullah al-Alimi, a senior official in Hadi's office, wrote on Twitter.

There was no immediate comment from the United Nations, or from Saudi Arabia, which is leading a military coalition, including the United Arab Emirates, trying to dislodge the Houthis.

But UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash expressed his support for the U.N. plan on Thursday, saying on Twitter that "alternate options are dark".

"The road map represents a political solution to the crisis of Yemen … It is time to leave behind the logic of arms and violence among Yemenis, and the road map gives a chance for reason and dialogue to prevail."

The ongoing conflict in Yemen has killed at least 10,000 people and unleashed one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

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