Yemen's Parliament Convenes for the First Time Since War Broke Out

As capital Sanaa remains under Iran-backed rebels' control, more than 130 out of 301 lawmakers attend rare session in eastern city and elect speaker

File photo: Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi attends the opening session of the 30th Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital Tunis, March 31, 2019.
Fethi Belaid/AFP

Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has attended a rare session of parliament in an eastern city.

The House of Representatives convened Saturday in Sayoun for the first time since war broke out in March 2015 between the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, who control the capital, Sanaa, and a Saudi-led coalition backing the government.

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More than 130 lawmakers attended the session and elected Sultan al-Borkani as speaker. The 301-member assembly was elected to a six-year term, which has already expired, in 2009. It is split between Houthi supporters, government supporters and independents.

Yemen's government has been based in the southern city of Aden since 2015, but Hadi and other top officials live in Saudi Arabia. Local authorities in Aden, who are allied with the United Arab Emirates, refused to allow parliament to convene there.

Yemeni government officials said Hadi's presidential plane departed from Riyadh and landed in Sayoun on Friday.

Yemen's war has killed tens of thousands of people – some of them by coalition air strikes – and driven 10 million to the brink of famine. The country is also suffering its third major outbreak of cholera since the conflict began. 

A peace process that began with a December agreement has stalled as the United Nations tries to get the parties to pull troops out of Hodeidah, Yemen's main port, and complete a prisoner exchange. 

These confidence-building measures could pave the way for further talks. 

Although a cease-fire agreed in December for Hodeidah largely holds, violence continues elsewhere and has escalated in recent weeks. 

Reuters contributed to this report.