The UN Security Council on Sunday urged Yemen’s Shiite Houthis militia to cede power, release President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and negotiate to emerge from the crisis.
All 15 members of the council unanimously adopted a resolution drafted by Britain and Jordan to that effect.
“The Security Council has spoken in one voice and delivered a strong and united message,” British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said.
His Jordanian colleague Dina Kawar stressed that “we need to prevent Yemen from sliding into the abyss.”
Ahead of the vote, the Houthis had made clear their determination to maintain their grip on power, despite intense pressure from the UN, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League.
The Arab League has called a meeting of its diplomatic chiefs on Yemen to take place Wednesday.
In its resolution, the council demanded that the Huthis engage in “good faith” in UN-brokered negotiations, “withdraw their forces from government institutions” and “relinquish government and security institutions.”
It also demanded that the militia release Hadi, Prime Minister Khaled Bahah and other members of his cabinet currently under house arrest or otherwise “arbitrarily” detained.
All parties must “accelerate inclusive UN-brokered negotiations” and set a date for a constitutional referendum and elections, the resolution added.
It raised the possibility of sanctions, without going as far as Gulf countries, which have demanded coercive measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.
A new council resolution would be necessary for sanctions to be applied.
In November, the council slapped sanctions on ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh and two Houthis leaders.
Diplomats say that Russia — itself under US and European embargoes resulting from the crisis in Ukraine — is reluctant to vote for sanctions because it thinks the Houthis are not the only party responsible for the chaos in Yemen.
A draft version of the resolution said the council deplored “the unilateral actions taken by the Houthis to dissolve parliament and take over Yemen’s government institutions, which have seriously escalated the situation.”
The Security Council called on nations to refrain from any interference that would inflame the situation, an implicit reference to Iran, which supports the Shiite militia.
The resolution also asks all sides in the conflict to assure the safety of diplomats and embassies in Yemen. Several Western nations including the United States have already pulled their diplomats from Sanaa.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday warned that Yemen was “collapsing before our eyes” and called on the Security Council for action.
UN special envoy Jamal Benomar said Yemen was “at a crossroad” that could see the country descend into civil war and disintegration.
The militia led by Abdulmalik al-Huthi dissolved Yemen’s government and parliament on February 6 after seizing the presidential palace and key government buildings.