Foreign Minister to YT “Yemen is Fairly Qualified to Enter into Joint Ventures with all Countries and I am Flying to Moscow to Prepare for the President’s Visits [Archives:2001/16/Interview]

April 16 2001

Interview by
Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi
Yemen Times
Q: Yemeni diplomacy coined a new term in the last few years namely “partnership” with other countries. How far can it be put into practice and is Yemen qualified enough to enter such partnerships?
A: I do not think there is anything impossible in the world. Everything is possible whenever there is a will, good intentions and clear indications to what one wants to do.
I think Yemen is fairly qualified to enter into joint ventures with the countries in the region, whether in the Gulf, or at the international level. Yemen has achieved a reputation for its rather flexible policy at the local as well as international level. It has started dialogues with all countries from the US to Japan on principles of partnership. Nothing happens immediately after one coins a term. It needs a lot of hard work and preparation. Certainly then, the international community will respond to Yemen’s call and we hope we will achieve our objectives of developing relations, not only on the basis of cooperation, but, of partnership in the development of political stances.
Q: To what extent will Yemeni diplomacy continue taking initiatives at the regional and international levels?
A: I think President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s intention is first to ensure stability in the region, and that all conflicts are settled by negotiations in peaceful ways. Proceeding from there, he works through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to enhance Yemen’s relations with all countries in the region. Also to work on issues that are now causing a lot of worry to us in Yemen whether in Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia or Eritrea. We try to mediate whenever it is possible for us to persuade various parties to sit at the negotiating table and settle these issues. We really feel that force is no longer the means of solving disputes and that negotiation is the only way for settling any differences of opinions.
Q: Concerning the problem of Somalia, Mr. Hussein Aided stated recently that Yemen, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are trying to interfere in the internal affairs of Somalia, while he used to support Yemen’s efforts in this regard. How do you spell out this change of Aided’s views?
A: I cannot really answer this question. All I can say is that we would like Mr. Aided to talk responsibly about every country’s efforts in helping Somalia to settle down and to ensure that peace prevails in the country. Also, that constitutional institutions play their role in developing the country and settling the various disputes within the country. Yemen’s role was towards this objective. We would like to see stability in Somalia. We feel that the people of Somalia have suffered a great deal over the last ten years and it is time now for its leaders to think seriously about the future of their country. Yemen has no interests in Somalia except to see peace and progress prevail there as an important partner in the region, and it is a member of the Arab League.
Q: Will Yemen continue its efforts in Somalia after the statements of Aided?
A: We will never hesitate to do whatever we can to bring the various parties together and help to get them at the negotiating table in order to iron out their problems.
Q: PM Bajamal stated recently after announcing the new cabinet that one of the main objectives of his government is to make Yemen join regional and international alliances. Do you think it is time now that Yemen joined the Gulf Cooperation Council?
A: Well, certainly Yemen is not going to sit on the sidelines. It will have to become an active member in all regional groupings and economic zones. We will do our best to join all of them. We are not in a hurry. This is something we have to develop over time through trust, cooperation and participation. I do not think all the countries in the region taken together can afford to keep Yemen out of any economic or political communities.
Q: What about the Commonwealth?
A: It is also on our agenda. We are really trying now to establish our priorities and this will be clear in the coming few months.
Q: What are these priorities?
A: Our priorities now are to make sure that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our political initiatives are geared towards Yemen and its development. Also, attracting investors to come to the country and invest in developing its economy.
Q: You are now getting prepared to fly to Russian and China. What will be the focus of the visit in your first diplomatic mission?
A: Well, this was arranged before I became the Foreign Minister. Its objectives, as far as China is concerned, are to boost our relations with China further. It is an important economic partner of Yemen and one of the growing economies in the world. It is a country which we believe has a tremendous future in the world. Therefore, we have to develop our relation on principles of economic partnership.
The visit to Russia on April 22 is partly to prepare for the visit of President Saleh to Moscow in the next few months. Besides, of course, negotiating a lot of agreements between the two countries. Russia is still an important country to Yemen. We have long standing ties which go back to the 1920s and, we have to build on these. We should not consider Russia as a country without influence. Rather it has a tremendous impact and we hope it will continue its support for the Arab causes.
Q: How do you view the US position towards the current atrocities of Israel in the Palestinian territories?
A: Certainly, I think the present American administration is trying to keep away from the conflict. But, I am sure they will have to change their mind because it is not in the interests of the US to just watch. The Arabs have been very disappointed regarding the veto by the US against the resolution presented to the UN Security Council regarding the establishment of an international forum for protecting the Palestinians against Israeli atrocities. All Arab countries feel that the American administration should be involved in the peace process and take an active part in it. The longer the conflict goes, the more explosive the situation will be and it will be damaging to the Americans and American interests.
Q: Is President Saleh likely to fly to the US soon as he was invited by the US president George W. Bush?
A: Yes, I think the invitation has been extended to President Saleh. This is now being considered by him and certainly he will respond to the invitation.
Q: What is new on the USS Cole issue, and do you think it has affected Yemeni-American relations? To what extent is Yemen cooperating with the US and the UK in countering terrorism?
A: Yemen’s position has been strong as far as terrorism is concerned. It has always tried to coordinate its efforts with all Arab countries and international agencies to counter terrorism. The incident of the Cole did not really damage Yemen-US relations. On the contrary, it has strengthened it because it has become clear to the Americans that Yemen and President Saleh will not hesitate to take firm action against terrorism in the country. The cooperation in this field has been at its best. There might have been some differing views on the process of the interrogation and so on. But, I think in the end everybody has worked together to reach the truth and to present those responsible for the incident in court, according to Yemeni law.
Q: Observers believe that the American presence in Aden might be followed by facilities to establish US military bases in Aden and Socotra in particular. Your comment?
A: I don’t think there is any ground for such statements.
Q: How does Yemeni diplomacy work on cooperation with the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF)?
A: Yemen will continue the process of economic and administrative reforms and it will continue cooperation with WB and IMF for the benefit of Yemen’s economy. I believe Yemen has succeeded over the last five years in achieving the stability of the exchange rate of the Yemeni Riyal. There has also been economic growth in the country. We realize that more decisions will have to be taken, but whatever is negotiated with these two agencies will take into consideration the interests of Yemen and its people.
Q: Some argue that the Yemeni government is conducting secret contacts with Israel. Your comments on such allegations?
A: There are always those who make imaginary stories because they can not live without such phantasmal, groundless stories. The position of Yemen as far as Israel is concerned is that there will not be any possibility of having relations with Israel until the issues of the Palestinians, Syrians and Arabs as a whole are settled. There will be no peace unless it is just and Israel withdraws from all Arab territories. There are no underground contacts with Israel and there will never be. President Saleh’s position in this regard has been clear in all his statements inside and outside Yemen and even in the US. I think people who fabricate such stories and statements serve, obviously, their own interests.
Q: In your first cabinet meeting last week, all ministers were asked to present their own plans to be included in the overall program of the government. What is your ministry’s plan in this respect?
A: I think you will be able to read it when it is presented to the parliament. However, it is based on how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs plays its part in foreign policy and how its system of decision-making is improved. We try to build the ministry’s institutions in the hope that Yemen’s diplomacy will serve the interest of the country, ensuring that Yemen becomes an important contributor to the stability and development of the region.