houthi presidential palace
Houthi fighters stand near a damaged guard post at a Presidential Guards barracks they took over on a mountain overlooking the Presidential Palace in Sanaa January 20, 2015. The U.N. has called on the Houthis to step down. Reuters/Khaled Abdullah

The United Nations Security Council unanimously demanded that the Houthi rebels give up control of Yemen’s government. The resolution demands that the Houthis withdraw “immediately and unconditionally.”

Mohammed Abdulsalam, a Houthi spokesperson, had said earlier on Sunday that the country will not “cede power in the face of threats,” Press TV reported. He added that the Yemenis were “engaged in a process of self-determination free of any tutelage.”

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a coalition of Gulf Arab states which are opposed to the Houthi takeover, had earlier called the U.N. to draft the resolution under Chapter 7, which would open the possibility of using force in the area, Reuters reported.

The resolution was not adopted under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which means it cannot be militarily enforced. However, the resolution warned of “further steps” if the Houthis did not acquiesce.

The resolution calls on the Houthis to give up control of major government buildings in capital Sanaa and then "engage in good faith in the U.N.-brokered negotiations."

It also demands the release of former President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has been held under house arrest along with other key government officials since the Houthis seized the capital in September. Last month, he resigned after the rebels dissolved the parliament.

The Iran-backed Houthis represent the Zaidi branch of Shia Islam. In recent months, they have made further forays south, into territories held by al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) and their Sunni tribal allies.

The resolution called upon all U.N. member states to "refrain from external interference which seeks to foment conflict and instability.” Yemeni officials reportedly said GCC member Saudi Arabia sent arms and supplies to fund tribesmen opposed to Houthi rule, Al Jazeera reported. Saudi Arabia has not commented on these accusations.