Yemen president, Houthis agree deal to end crisis

Yemeni President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi and the country’s powerful Shiite militia agreed Wednesday to end a deadly confrontation that had raised fears the impoverished but strategic country might descend into chaos.

The Houthis seized almost full control of the capital Sanaa in September and have fought pitched battles with government forces this week as they continued to press for more political power.

The unrest has raised deep international concern, with the U.N. Security Council condemning the attacks and backing Hadi as Yemen’s “legitimate authority.”

Under a nine-point deal, the militia agreed to withdraw from government buildings they seized this week in return for concessions over a disputed draft constitution, state news agency Saba said.

The Houthis pledged to vacate the presidential palace, a day after seizing it, and to free Hadi’s chief of staff, Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak, who was abducted Saturday.

In return, it would now be “possible to amend” the draft constitution dividing Yemen into six federal regions, which the Houthis opposed, Saba said.

“The draft constitution should be agreed upon by all factions,” according to the deal, and Yemen “will be a federal state in accordance with the outcome of the national dialogue.”

The agreement also pledges to treat Houthis, known officially as Ansarullah, and other disgruntled factions equally in the allocation of public posts.

“Ansarullah and peaceful Southern Movement and all other political factions deprived of equal representation in state institutions will have the right to be appointed in these institutions,” it said.

The militia Tuesday seized Hadi’s offices at the presidential palace and attacked his residence, in what officials said was an attempted coup.

There were no signs of violence Wednesday, after at least 35 people were killed and 94 wounded in the two previous days.

The violence prompted the Sunni-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council to accuse the Houthis of an attempted “coup.”

The escalation has raised fears of a collapse of Hadi’s government and of the country descending into chaos.

The United States condemned the violence and said it was closely monitoring the crisis after officials revealed a U.S diplomatic vehicle had been attacked.

Ibrahim Sharquieh, conflict resolution expert at the Brookings Institute in Doha, said the Houthis wanted “to rule but not govern” Yemen.

Yemeni military sources said the Houthis also seized the military aviation college close to Hadi’s home, and the main missile base in Sanaa, without a fight.