UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council called for a lasting cease-fire in conflict-torn Yemen on Tuesday and condemned the recent surge in violence aimed at undermining the country's legitimate government institutions.
The U.N.'s most powerful body stressed in a press statement approved by all 15 members after an emergency meeting that President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi "is the legitimate authority" in the Arab world's poorest country.
Violence has gripped Yemen's capital, Sanaa, since Monday and has been described as a coup. Yemeni authorities say Shiite Houthi rebels shelled Hadi's residence and raided the presidential palace on Tuesday.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier called for an immediate halt to hostilities.
He urged all sides to "exercise maximum restraint, and take the necessary steps to restore full authority to the legitimate government institutions," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The Security Council heard a closed-door briefing by Ban's special adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, who was in Qatar's capital, Doha. Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said he was heading to Sanaa later Tuesday.
Hadi took over the presidency in 2012 after a popular revolt toppled his predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Houthi rebels who oppose his government captured Sanaa in September, allegedly with the tacit support of Saleh.
The spark for the latest violence appears to be rooted in the Houthis' rejection of a draft constitution that divides the country into six federal regions, a move they fear would reduce their power in areas they have seized since last summer.
The Houthis accuse Hadi of reneging on a U.N.-brokered agreement with the group following their capture of Sanaa in September that promised better representation on a commission to oversee the drafting of a new constitution. On Saturday, they kidnapped Hadi's head of office, Ahmed bin Mubarek, to disrupt a meeting scheduled for the same day to work on the new constitution, which set the wheels in motion for the latest violence.
The council welcomed the completion of the draft constitution, looked forward to the start of public consultations, and called for all parties to rapidly engage in finalizing the document "in a constructive manner which responds to the aspirations of the Yemeni people."
Council members rejected "violent efforts to undermine or interfere with Yemen's legitimate government institutions."
They emphasized that all parties and political actors must stand with Hadi, his prime minister and Cabinet "to keep the country on track to stability and security."
The Security Council urged all parties "to resolve their differences through dialogue and consultation, to reject acts of violence to achieve political goals, to refrain from provocation, and to fully abide by (U.N.) resolutions."
Secretary-General Ban condemned the kidnapping of Mubarek and called for his immediate release.
The U.N. chief urged all sides to resolve differences through peaceful means and to remain engaged with U.N. and Gulf Cooperation Council members, Dujarric said. He condemned the kidnapping of Mubarek and called for his immediate release.