The internationally recognised government of Yemen has condemned a move by the Houthi rebels to appoint the head of their own TV station as an “ambassador” to Iran.
President Abdrabu Mansour Hadi’s government described the move on Saturday as “a flagrant violation of international laws and customs”.
The Houthi-run Al Masirah TV said on Saturday night that Ibrahim Al Dailami had been appointed “ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary for the republic of Yemen to the Islamic Republic of Iran”.
Mr Al Dailami is also the director-general of Al Masirah TV.
While the group is not recognised internationally as the government of Yemen, having seized the capital of Sanaa in a 2015 coup, it claims to be the administration and to make appointments accordingly.
Most countries do not recognise these moves but as its main political and military backer, Iran appears to have treated the ambassadorial appointment as if it is any other.
The state-run Iranian Republic News Agency also reported the news, quoting Houthi leader Abdulmalek Al Houthi as having “praised Iran’s clear and frank support for Yemen”.
President Hadi severed ties with Iran in 2015 over the Islamic Republic’s support for the armed northern Yemeni political-military group.
“The exchange of diplomatic relations between Tehran regime and the Houthi militias breaches the international laws and norms and contravenes United Nations Security Council resolutions related to the Yemen crisis,” the government said in a statement on Twitter.
It said the step has exposed the hidden relationship between the Houthis and Iran.
The announcement was made after Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei held talks in Tehran on Tuesday with a Houthi delegation headed by rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam.
Mr Al Dailami attending the meeting with Mr Khamenei.
The ayatollah renewed his support for the Houthis and accused Iran’s foes of a “plot” to partition the country.
Yemen has been deadlocked in a grinding conflict that has caused what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
A Saudi-led coalition intervened in March 2015 to support the government forces.
The conflict has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people and displaced about 3.3 million since 2015.
Two-thirds of the population – about 20 million people – require humanitarian support, reported the UN, which is trying to organise peace talks to end the conflict.