Yemen's exiled president appoints conciliatory figure as deputy

Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has appointed his former PM as VP, a move aimed at improving the chances of peace.

FILE. Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Picture: AFP.

ADEN - Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi appointed his former prime minister as vice president on Sunday, a move apparently aimed at improving the chances of a peaceful settlement to the civil war that forced Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.

"The president issued an order today appointing Khaled Bahah as his deputy," a presidential advisor told Reuters.

Bahah is popular across Yemen's spectrum of feuding parties and may be seen as a figure who could calm tensions and bring warring parties to the negotiating table.

"The appointment of Bahah may help in finding a political solution as part of efforts to revive the dialogue process sponsored by the United Nations," the Hadi aide told Reuters.

There are no signs that the war will let up anytime soon.

Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies have been bombing Yemen for over two weeks, hoping to slow the advance of Iranian-allied Houthi militias towards the southern port city of Aden.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday said he was concerned by the fighting and urged peace talks.

"In Yemen, I have strongly objected to the Houthis attempting to control the country by force. This is unacceptable. But I am also deeply concerned about the military escalation," Ban told reporters in the Qatari capital Doha.

"The internal crisis in Yemen should not be allowed to grow into a protracted regional conflict. We urgently need a de-escalation and a return to peaceful negotiations," he added.

Saudi Arabia dismissed Iranian calls to end air strikes and hit a military camp in Taiz on Sunday, killing eight civilians, according to a medical source.

The air raids on the central Yemeni city targeted a site held by soldiers loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh who have joined up with Houthi fighters against local militias in the south, the source said.

Saleh was forced to give up power in 2012 after mass protests against his rule, but his loyalists in the military remained in place and now fight alongside the Houthis.

The conflict has raised fears that a sectarian proxy war between rivals Riyadh and Tehran will further destabilise the Middle East and potentially destroy the Yemeni state.