Yemen inaugurates new presidential council

It is unclear whether the government and presidential council will remain in Aden, Yemen or in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as was previously the case.

Marib, Yemen – The head of Yemen’s newly formed presidential council, Rashad al-Alimi, has been sworn in along with other members of the eight-member council in a ceremony in the southern port city of Aden.

Members of the presidential council, including al-Alimi, as well as Aidarous al-Zubaidi, the head of the separatist Southern Transitional Council, and Faraj al-Bahsani, the governor of Hadramout governorate, had arrived from Saudi Arabia over the past few days.

The ceremony was conducted on Tuesday in front of members of the Yemeni parliament, which was last elected in 2003.

United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg was also in attendance, as well as several European and Arab ambassadors.

“The return to the ground is a key step,” Adam Baron, a writer and Yemen analyst, told Al Jazeera. “That being said, the key priorities moving forward will ultimately be to improve service provision, and to work to improve the tentative progress towards stabilisation.”

The event was not announced in advance for security reasons. In December 2020, government officials were targeted in a missile attack shortly after arriving at Aden Airport from Saudi Arabia, leading to the deaths of at least 20 people.

Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalek Saeed, along with other senior government officials, had also arrived in Aden, which serves as Yemen’s temporary capital, before the swearing-in ceremony.

Last week, the presidential council held its first meeting with the Yemeni government in Riyadh to set priorities for the upcoming period, according to the official Saba News Agency.

Al-Alimi said economic stability and alleviating humanitarian suffering were among the council’s priorities. He also previously said the presidential council would work to end Yemen’s war. The seven-year conflict has pitted the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels on one side, against Saudi-led coalition-backed forces, including the Yemeni government.

It remains unclear whether the government and the presidential council will remain in Aden, or whether members will return to Riyadh, as they have previously done since the beginning of the war.

Faraj al-Buhsani, part of the council, has said members will remain in Yemen after the swearing-in, after years of criticism towards former president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and members of his government for residing in Saudi hotels instead of leading the government from inside Yemen.

Hadi stepped aside and ceded his powers to the presidential council after consultations held in Riyadh that involved dozens of Yemeni politicians and activists.

However, those attending the talks were not consulted on the decision, which came as a surprise after hours of closed-door meetings between Hadi, leading members of the Saudi royal family and Yemeni party leaders.

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