The dispute with Yemen’s Houthi rebels is not a political issue that can be resolved on the negotiating tables, President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi said on Thursday.
The conflict with the rebels who overran the capital Sanaa and other major cities in 2014 is a dispute over a common value system, Hadi said.
“The problem in Yemen is not a political one that can only be managed through political dialogue, despite the great efforts and concessions made by the government in this regard,” Hadi said in a speech at the 72nd U.N. General Assembly in New York.
“It is not even a coup in the conventional sense of coups,” he added.
The president, who has sporadically visited Yemen’s temporary capital while living in neighboring Saudi Arabia for some two years, slammed the rebels as “an extremist religious group that believes that God gave it an ethnic preference and a divine right to rule.”
The comments coincided with a mass gathering of Houthis and their supporters in Sanaa on Thursday marking the third anniversary since the rebels captured Sanaa and other major cities.
Thousands of supporters descended onto the capital’s iconic Sabaeen Square chanting slogans of support for the rebel group while denouncing the Saudi-led coalition for its military intervention in Yemen.
“From this blessed square we will liberate all of Yemen,” the head of the rebel government, Abdel Aziz bin Habtoor, told the crowds.
“We will not compromise on the liberation of our lands,” he said, accusing coalition members Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of “direct occupation” of Yemen’s southern and some of its eastern regions.
Captured military vehicles belonging to the United Arab Emirates were paraded among the crowds as a show of defiance toward the coalition which vowed to reinstate the internationally recognized Hadi government three years earlier.
On September 21, 2014, the rebels seized key institutions, including the government headquarters and military sites, with the aid of forces loyal to Saleh.
By January 2015, they forced President Hadi to flee to Yemen’s second city, Aden, which he later declared as a “temporary capital”.
But the conflict escalated in March that year when the Saudi-led coalition launched a military intervention aimed at rolling back Houthi gains and restoring Hadi to power.
The fighting has caused a humanitarian catastrophe which the UN says is the world’s worst, pushing seven million people to the brink of famine and sparking a cholera outbreak that the World Health Organisation says has killed 2,000 people.
Yemen is today split in two, with the Houthi-Saleh camp controlling the north and coalition-backed pro-government forces in the south.