Foreign Affairs Minister on Iraq crisis: ‘Unpredictable’ [Archives:2003/05/Front Page]

February 4 2003

While Yemen joined protests this week against a possible U.S.-led strike on Iraq, The Yemen Times interviewed Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Abubakr Al-Qirbi to ask him what such a strike might mean for the region. Following is his response, along with other questions and responses to Yemen’s relationship with the U.S., it’s fight on terrorism, and a range of other issues dealing with Yemen foreign affairs.
Q: How do you see the near future, especially the threat of attack on Iraq?
A: What does not kill you only makes you stronger. We are wishing that we come out of these difficult times a better nation and a part of a better world as a whole.
The fact is that there are forces in and outside the country working in opposite directions.. Only sometimes these concepts get mixed up and fall under cover.
There are signs that the Arab leaders are determined to fixing (internal and external) situations and face the challenges. However the common man is depressed that could lead to angry reactions, so it has become difficult to forecast the future.
As for the Iraqi case, we are defiantly against any attack on Iraq, but power points in the Pentagon surely are pushing in the direction of war. The situation is critical and all efforts are needed to direct it to a peaceful end.
Q: Would there be a rearranging of the Arab region if the attack on Iraq does happen?
A: There are many scenarios with all its possibilities, however these are only predictions. A situation like what we are living in today could easily change from one moment to another. It’s like you are walking through a minefield – you don’t know what and when something would explode. But in all cases I have to emphasize that attack on Iraq would defiantly destabilize the area. Any foreign invasion on the Iraqi land or regime or people will only make things worse.
Q: Yemen has faced several terrorist incidents that caused the country great losses. While the government had declared its commitment in combating terrorism, how do you explain the synchronization on the regional and international level?
A: Yemen’s stance against terrorism is quite clear. We condemn all terrorist acts and confirm our total cooperation in combating it, in and outside the country. We well understand that stability is in our favor and violence and the like is defiantly going to harm the country.
Throughout history violence had lead to more violence and fighting between the nations leads only to destruction and loss. Yemen is committed to the international agreements it signed.
As for the synchronization, Yemen is working on two fronts. The first is concerned with exchange of information between the different security offices in a number of countries. And the other is concerned with the local security situation, through training and establishing of qualified terrorist combating forces, as well as extra protection in the borders especially the coastal areas, to prevent misuse of the Yemen land.
Q: Cooperation between Yemen and the USA, did it go through a low phase after the CIA drone missile attack in November on six al-Qaeda suspects. What about the consequences of the murder of the American aid workers in Jibla?
A: Cooperation between the two countries is ongoing and is moving forward in a normal way under the international agreements and laws. It is true that the Jibla incident reflected the ugly face of terrorism. These aid workers had lived in peace in the country for more than 30 years, and their murder only made it clear how important it is to fight terrorism in the country. The government is more determined in eliminating these negative elements of society. The country has faced a lot so far from them and will not stay silent.
Q: There is a number of Yemenis who are still in custody at the Cuba base, after the September 11th attack. What has come over those?
A: Still the same, and we like other concerned countries are continuously demanding their submission to Yemen to take them to court according to Yemeni laws. Yemen has proved that it is one of the countries most concerned for its people and their safety and their release from the countries in which they are arrested in. But it has to be known that they are a part of many from various countries who were arrested for the same reasons.
Q: The Trio-summit between Yemeni, Ethiopia, and Sudan held recently in Sana’a has showed cooperation between the three countries. Why did Eritrea receive this summit with annoyance?
A: Yes, the meeting has reflected the good relations between the three countries and their political, economical and security cooperation in order to establish stability in the region.
Eritrea’s reaction had no bases at all, because the summit is a natural consequence of the developing relations between the three countries.
Leaders of the summit and especially president Ali Abdulla Saleh had announced that this summit has nothing against Eritrea and the country in fact carries good feelings for Eritrea.
Also the disagreement between the three countries and that country should be solved with negotiation and dialogue. In this respect we are trying to bring the viewpoints together and also trying to establish peace in Somalia as well, so that the whole region is in stable conditions.
Yemen is a part of this region and is concerned that all countries in it are in stable conditions and fine, for it continuously suffers from anything that happens in them, for example the endless flood of refugees from Somalia.
Q: Being minister of foreign affairs, you are responsible for the safety and conditions of the Yemenis abroad who have been arrested, such as Sheiek Al-Moued in Germany and before him the Yemeni businessman, Abdulsalam Al-Heela. What have you done in their cases?
A: We are still on their case and our efforts are continuously being spent in order to release them. And we are doing this under the umbrella of international laws and the UN agreements.
Q: President Ali Abdulla Saleh paid a visit to Russia and in which he made contracts to buy weapons. Is it an introduction to new economic cooperation between the two countries?
A: Yes, Yemen strives to create good economic cooperation with Russia and all other countries.
Economic relations are a part of all relations in general and it is in the country’s interest to maintain good overall relations with its friendly countries. However the visit was not only for the weapons. It also took the regional and international issues in discussion, and Russia is an influential country and one of the great five, so it is important to create good bonds with it.
Q: Yemen’s government is being criticized for buying expensive military hardware, whereas at the same time it is requesting donations and aid from other countries in order to face the economic situation. How do you explain that?
A: These are exaggerations and they don’t have an accurate base. The country needs to defend itself and the weapons are used for defense. And if you want to compare, then you might as well compare how much the country spends on its defense against what other countries are spending. Yemen has all rights to ensure the safety of its people and sovereignty over its land.
Q: The Israeli interfering in the Red Sea area’s policies was that one of the topic discussed in the summit. Explain.
A: Of course the main topics which were discussed took up all the concerns of the three countries. Naturally the Israeli interfering in the region was one of those topics. Israel always tries to make use of any conflicts in the area, and we all have to be aware and careful of this aspect. So all the Arab countries should join in efforts to stand against this interfering. Israel wants to control the Red Sea, but if that happens the stability of the whole region will be at stake.
Q: Relation with the GCC has seen a recent development especially after the joining of Yemen to some of the council’s establishments. Recently also an agreement has been signed. So what next? Must Yemen fulfill some conditions before it is given the green light?
A: Geographically, culturally and strategically Yemen is a part of the GCC, so naturally it is heading to be a part of it politically. And Yemen is qualified to join as an economic market and rich force for manpower, as well as a military force that can serve in providing defense.
However on the down side we need to be qualified economically. And this is what Yemen is doing now with assistance of the GCC.
The agreement states that the gulf has come over all the political differences and that they will help in improving Yemen’s economical situation. But this partnership needs a lot of working and struggling to make it successful, from both governmental and nongovernmental sectors. Yemen’s joining in some of the establishment is a first mile of the road, and we still have to walk it to the end.