US President Barack Obama urged Yemen on Wednesday to immediately implement a deal under which President Ali Abdullah Saleh has agreed to hand over power after 33 years in office.
“The United States will continue to stand by the Yemeni people as they embark on this historic transition,” Obama said in a written statement.
Saleh, who has been the target of opposition protests since January, signed the deal in Riyadh earlier on Wednesday, ending months of delay that had seen protests that degenerated into deadly unrest.
Under the agreement, the veteran leader will hand over his powers to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi but remain honorary president for 90 days.
“For 10 months, the Yemeni people have courageously and steadfastly voiced their demands for change in cities across Yemen in the face of violence and extreme hardship,” Obama said.
“Today’s agreement brings them a significant step closer to realizing their aspirations for a new beginning in Yemen,” he said.
“The United States urges all parties to move immediately to implement the terms of the agreement, which will allow Yemen to begin addressing an array of formidable challenges and chart a more secure and prosperous path for the future.”
Saleh had repeatedly backed out of signing the deal brokered by Yemen’s wealthy Gulf neighbors since the parliamentary opposition inked it back in April.
During his months of prevarication, deadly clashes between loyalist and dissident troops had riven the capital, while militants, some linked to Al-Qaeda, took advantage of the decline of central government control in the provinces to set up base.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner earlier urged all parties in Yemen “to refrain from violence and to move swiftly to implement the terms of the agreement in good faith and in transparency.”