SANAA (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen is moving to the southern city of Aden, an aide to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said on Thursday, in an apparent snub to the Shi‘ite Houthi faction that has taken control of the capital Sanaa.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.
Saudi Arabia joined Western states this month in evacuating its embassy in Sanaa following a power grab by the Iranian-backed northern Houthis, viewed with suspicion by the Gulf’s mostly Sunni Muslim rulers.
Ambassador Mohammed Said al-Jaber’s move to Aden, Yemen’s economic hub, underlines Saudi Arabia’s support for Hadi, who fled to the port city last week after the Houthis forced him to announce his resignation and held him under house arrest in Sanaa for a month.
Parliament never met to approve Hadi’s resignation, and on Saturday he said he was still president. He is now working to set up a rival power center in Aden with loyal army units and tribes, though many members of his government, including the prime minister, Khaled Bahah, remain under house arrest in Sanaa.
“The Saudi ambassador returned to Aden yesterday together with the Gulf Cooperation Council secretary-general and began today to pursue his mission officially in Aden,” said Rajeh Badi, an aide to Hadi. He said envoys from the other Gulf Arab states would follow suit.
In a mid-evening speech broadcast on national television, Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi made no direct reference to the Saudi move, but accused the kingdom of seeking to make its southern neighbor like Libya, where two rival parliaments and governments operate.
“Our Saudi brothers want to turn Yemen into the Libyan model and they are using Hadi’s departure to achieve that,” he said, adding that Hadi was “subordinate” to the U.S. and Saudi ambassadors.
In his speech, Houthi said he would press on with forming a presidential council and a national unity government, a plan he unveiled on Feb. 6 when he dissolved parliament, a move denounced by political opponents as a coup.
Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari, Omar Fahmy in Cairo and Angus Mcdowall in Riyadh; Writing by Raissa Kasolowsky; Editing by Kevin Liffey