Ban also lifted on U.S. armsRussian arms sales to Yemen grow [Archives:2004/794/Local News]
It was announced last week that Yemen's imports of weapons from Russia is expected to rise this year.
According to Sergei Chemezov, General Director of Rosoboronexport – the state-owned defense export company in Russia – arms delivered from Russia should clear $100 million in 2004.
“Our developments enable us to count on expanding military and technical cooperation between Moscow and Sana'a in the years ahead,” Chemezov told Russian Itar-Tas news agency last Tuesday. “Exports did not reach such heights in [the previous five-year period].”
Russian military exports reaching Yemen now include helicopters, infantry fighting vehicles, ammunition and small arms, Chemezov said. He added that Yemen has shown interest in acquiring new military aircraft, vehicles and air defense systems.
In 2003, Russia reported that their arms sales totaled $5.1 billion. Yemen is Russia's fourth largest arms customer, and in recent years has purchased hundreds of millions in military equipment.
Russia first started delivering military equipment in 2000, providing Yemen with 31 modern T-80 tanks. The two governments signed a contract for MIG-29 fighter planes and the fist delivery took place in 2002.
“The development of the relationships between Yemen and Russia and the United States concerning arms is happening at the same time and is normal,” said Ahmed Al-Kibsi, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Political Science at Sana'a University. “Yemen has an excellent relationship with both countries, not only for arms but also for cooperation on the war on terror.”
Last September, the United States lifted its 14-year ban on arms sales to Yemen. The ban on weapons and military equipment came from Yemen's position following the Iraq invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Yemeni officials said that the lifting of the ban would help Yemen fight terrorism. Yemen joined the United States on the war on terror after the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001.
Yemeni government officials said that the United States provided roughly $100 million in aid to support the fight against terrorism, mostly for technical equipment and training, before the ban was lifted. The Yemeni government said that it would begin concentrating on receiving spare parts for military equipment after the ban ended.
Last spring, the United States delivered nine gunboats to Yemen to help the newly established Yemen Coast Guard protect the country's coastline and ports. Several months ago, the United States decided that its warships could refuel at the port of Aden due to improved security. US warships stopped arriving at the port after the bombing attack on USS Cole four years ago.
Chemezov came to Yemen as part of a Russian delegation last week. During the visit, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Sultanov met with Yemeni officials and President Ali Abdallah Saleh. Sultanov said the talks concentrated on the war on terror, but also included a possible solution in Iraq and regenerating the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“I am very happy because there are no real differences between the Russian and Yemeni viewpoints regarding key issues, and this lays the groundwork for closer cooperation,” said Sultanov at the end of talks.
Last April, President Saleh held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow that included furthering arms deals between the countries.