Deputy Minister for International Cooperation Hisham Sharaf:”Terrorism Attacks on Yemen did not negatively impact Yemen’s relations with the donor community”” [Archives:2008/1151/Business & Economy]”

May 1 2008

In a recent interview with state-owned Al-Seyasya newspaper, deputy minister of international cooperation Hisham Saraf Abdullah stated that significant improvements have taken place in the bilateral relations between Yemen and Asian countries, adding that the on-going tour of the deputy prime minister for economic affairs and minister for international cooperation Abdulkarim Al-Arhabi to Japan falls within a government direction towards opening more towards asian economies.

In the exclusive interview with Al-Seyasya, Sharaf downplayed the negative impact of the recent terrorism attacks witnessed recently, on the mechanism of international cooperation with the donor community, adding that donors understand the terrorism challenge Yemen is facing, as illustrated by the increased development support given to Yemen from Spain following the terrorism attacks which killed seven Spanish tourists in Yemen last July in Marib.

Firstly, let's stop at the visit by the deputy prime minister for economic affairs to Japan, what is expected from this visit?

This visit is a part of a government policy of increased opening with powerful asian economies, and japan is one of the most important asian economies in this regards, and we hope that this visit will strengthen bilateral relations further, especially given that Japan is the third largest donor to Yemen.

What results can you anticipate as a result of Al-Arhabi's visit to Tokyo?

There are joint efforts between Yemen and Japan to strengthening the bilateral relationship, especially since Yemen's prime minister used to be the director of the Yemeni-Japanese friendship association. The deputy prime minister through his consultations with top Japanese officials will attempt to revive some of the older Japanese assistance programs including the unclassified assistance projects with government agencies such as the elections committee or non-governmental organizations and financing small scale activities. Another scheme we hope to revive is the rural development programs such as water management in several locations including northern and southern governorates to establish water services to the areas. We are also working in the development of a vocational training program, and in the agricultural sector through working with farmers, in education through the construction of schools, the provision of 20 – 30 scholarships in various fields. There is also cooperation in civil defense and anti-terrorism.

You mentioned a Yemeni policy for more openness with Asian countries, How is this coming along?

Yes indeed, there is strong progress in this regards, in terms of increasing the representation of these countries in Yemen and cooperation, for example Korea has increased its pledges to Yemen from US$ 55 million during the London donors conference in 2006 to US$ 100 million, and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency has inaugurated its own offices here in Yemen, and several Asian countries will follow suit, as well as several gulf-based development agencies.

There are indications that Yemen's openness with the east will happen on the expense of its relations with the west. How do you comment on this?

These indications are baseless, as Yemen's interests are given the highest priorities in the openness strategy, without having to point a direction towards the east or the west. So Yemen's relations with the east or the west depend on mutual interests.

On the mention of Gulf countries, what is the progress done towards the implementation of the recommendations of the London donors conference and Yemen's accession to the Gulf Cooperative Council?

The countries of the gulf cooperative council are one of Yemen's most important partners in development and the implementation of the third five-year plan for Yemen and the investment schedule, and we look forward to allocating the reminder of the obligations promised by GCC countries during the London donors conference in order to successfully complete the implementation of the plan.

Can we assume that Yemen will join the GCC before the 2015 timeline given the improved relations with the GCC countries?

We are optimistic on the chances of an accelerated accession in the GCC, there are indicators and clear political directions towards that, and we believe that the entry point would be allocating a percentage to Yemeni labor in the employment opportunities within GCC countries, which is understandable by GCC countries.

Yemen has seen a significant appearance of terrorism threats in Yemen, which targeted foreign interests in the country. Are there negative consequences of the recent incidents as reflected in several local and international media?

Not at all, yemen's relations were not affected at all, in fact we've received words of solidarity and compassion with Yemen against terrorism threats, this was reflected in the initiatives proposed by these countries, for example the Spanish government's stance following the attack on the Spanish tourists which pushed the Spanish government to increase its development assistance to Yemen, and soon they will open an office for their development agency in Yemen.

And these stances are – in my opinion – represent solidarity of the international community against the threat of terrorism.