Arab Gulf states and the United Nations threw their support behind Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi on Wednesday and called on Houthi rebels controlling the capital, Sana’a, to stand aside for a transition plan.
Hadi fled to Aden, Yemen’s economic hub, last week, establishing a rival government there.
The United Nations called on the Houthis to release the prime minister and his cabinet who have been held in Sana’a since the northern rebel group stormed the city in September.
Earlier this month, the Houthis formalized their takeover by dissolving parliament and forming an interim assembly to elect a presidential council.
Hadi’s former defense and interior ministers joined in what the president later described as a “coup.” After fleeing to Aden, Hadi reiterated his commitment to constitutional reforms that would split Yemen up into six autonomous regions. His plan is supported by the United Nations and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, the Bahraini head of the Gulf organization, met Hadi in Aden on Wednesday to express his support. Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen moved to the port city the following day, an aide to Hadi said.
Rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi accused the desert kingdom of seeking to turn Yemen into another Libya where two rival governments operate.
“Our Saudi brothers want to turn Yemen into the Libyan model and they are using Hadi’s departure to achieve that,” Houthi said in a televised speech.
He further claimed that Hadi was “subordinate” to American and Saudi interests.
The United States have supported Hadi as an ally against Al Qaeda terrorists in Yemen. Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states see the Shia Houthis as proxies for their nemesis, Iran. To what extent the group actually coordinates with Iran is unclear.
Since seeking refuge in Aden, Hadi has won the support of local authorities in the Hadhramaut, Ma’rib and Shabwah provinces which contain most of Yemen’s oil and natural gas reserves. His nephew, Nasser Ahmed, controls security in Aden as well as the nearby Abyan and Lahij regions, both of which are situated in the southwest.
Despite hailing from the south himself, Hadi has failed to win over factions that advocate the secession of the former South Yemen. They rejected Hadi’s partition plan, fearing it would dilute their power over oil reserves in the area of Hadhramaut.
The Houthis criticized the plan as well, arguing it would undermine Yemen’s unity by strengthening Sunni and pro-Saudi fiefdoms in the south at the expense of northern autonomy.