Mr. Mohammed Ben Mirdas Al-Kahtany “The Saudis and Arab investors should invest some of their money in Yemen but it depends on the Yemeni authority to create a good atmosphere.” [Archives:1999/30/Interview]

July 26 1999

Mr. Mohammed Ben Mirdas Al-Kahtany the new ambassador of Saudi Arabia, is a well-known figure who has taken different jobs in authority. He had his BA. in Economics and Political Science in 1972 from Alryade University. Immediately after his graduation he joined the Exterior Ministry in different capacities till he becomes the Ambassador-Extraordinary Plenipotentiary of Royal Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Yemen. He has also been an active participant in many international and regional conferences and meetings. . On the occasion of his coming, Mohammed Ben Sallam of the Yemen Times talked to him and filed the following interview.
Q: What was your personal impression when you were appointed as The ambassador here in Yemen?
A: When I was informed of my appointment as an Ambassador of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, I was filled with happiness and pride to have the trust of the leadership and work in such an important job. Our Embassy in Yemen is very much important and is given a special care and support from the Custodian of the Holy Mosques, King Fahd Ben Abdul Azeez and the prince, Abdulla Ben Abdul Azeez and the leadership.
Q: How do you evaluate the Saudi-Yemeni relationships? and what are their future prospects?
A: The Saudi-Yemeni relationships are deeply rooted in history. They can never be separated despite difficulties and hardships the brothers face. The two brotherly countries’ relations are very strong despite some obstacles faced after the revolution in 1962. However, the kingdom has tried its best and has helped a lot to construct Yemen and to enhance its economy since 1970. That is best seen in different fields: education, health, economy, etc and in the continuous financial support to the Yemeni budget. The kingdom has also played an important role in the strengthening and improving the Yemeni military forces and providing it with modern weapons so much that are reckoned as Yemen and Saudi Arabia one. To enhance and strengthen our relations the Supreme Saudi-Yemeni Cooperation Council and Office of Saudi Projects are established. However, the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in August 1990 and Yemen’s attitude led to a tension between the two brotherly countries. But the two countries could solve that strain after the signing of the Agreement Note in 1995. Eventually, the relations have become normal and strong again. Now the two governments are trying to improve and solve all the obstacles facing them in different fields. This goes all-out to prove that future prospects of the two countries are very promising, and heading towards more welfare and prosperity, especially after settling the dispute of the borders between the two countries.
Q: What are the tangible results of the delegations exchanged between the two countries? Do you think we could settle the borders dispute during this year?
A: We hope to settle every thing down as soon as possible. However, as you know, solving borders problem in any part of the world needs time and willingness from the two sides. Besides, the Saudi-Yemeni borders are very old and complex as we have different tribes, lands very closed to each other. So all this needs time and patience. The increasing number of delegations between the two countries in recent times shows that there is a bilateral interest to solve everything out. Therefore, I believe that we will be able to overcome all the difficulties and obstacles and reach an end to this issue.
Q: Is there a possibility to provide Yemeni workers with more facilities? What are the obstacles you face in this regard?
A: The Yemeni employment in Saudi Arabia is very normal and is dealt with according to the regulations and laws in the kingdom. There is quite a good number of Yemenis working in our country. They are around 700,000 workers, and they are still allowed to enter the kingdom. A clear example of this is the number of the official endorsements which reached to 23700 during 1998.
Q: Are there any economic relations between the two countries?
A: There are good economic relations which are a clear sign of the historic and neighboring relations. There is a number of economic projects and we hope to increase our projects in the near future. So we promise to do our best to enhance and strengthen the relations of the two countries in all fields including investment and trade. Although there is no mechanism to accelerate trade in the two countries, the kingdom is the first trade partner to Yemen. The Saudi-Yemeni trade cooperation is endorsed in the signed agreement between the two countries in 1995. It has been ratified by the Saudi Side but the Yemeni side has not yet done so. This agreement will do a lot to improve the trade cooperation between the two countries and will certainly facilitate investment.
Q: Most of the Saudi investors have a tendency to invest their money far away in the West. Are there any plans to invest in Yemen? If not what are the obstacles faced?
A: I agree with you that Saudi and Arab investors should invest some of their money in Yemen, but it rests upon the Yemeni authority to create a good atmosphere, proper circumstances, security, protection, etc. to attract the attention of these investors. We promise to encourage investment in Yemen and there are already some Saudi projects implemented in Yemen. If these projects are to be successful, this will encourage other investors to come and invest in Yemen. Besides, Saudi investors invest in some Arab countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, Syria and in the Gulf’s cooperations council countries as well. The reason they have chosen these countries is that these countries have provided them with all kind of facilities and security. Regarding the obstacles they face you, Yemenis, know them better than me.
Q: There are a number of conflicts and wars in countries near the Red Sea and in the African Horn which are supported by international and regional countries. What is the role of Saudi Arabia and Yemen in trying to solve these conflicts that negatively affect these neighbors?
A: There are no obstacles in the cooperation of Saudi Arabia and Yemen to solve such tensions and conflicts, especially if there is a clear and agreed prospect. Saudi Arabia has attempted and have done its best to solve the conflict in Somalia and Jiddah agreement was signed. However, it has not yet been implemented. Yemen and Egypt have also taken some steps. Besides, Yemen attempts to solve and settle disputes down in Eritrea and Ethiopia. However, all Arab attempts are looked upon carefully from the regional and international perspectives. The African Unity Organization, for example, considers this an intervention in African countries, even if these attempts are from some African-Arab countries such as the Egyptian efforts. However, this will not depress us and we will never stop doing anything that will help to solve these problems and conflicts in the proper time. Moreover, the conflict in the African Horn is a greater priority in the Yemeni exterior policy than other Arab Land countries. This is what has been stated by Mr. Abdul Kader Ba Gamal, the Deputy Prime Minister and Exterior Minister, in an interview in the 14th October newspaper on July 15 1999. I actually agree with him in this regard because these conflicts directly and negatively reflect their impact upon Yemen which present more obstacles and difficulties for the economic situation the government is trying to get rid of.
Q: Regarding the Saudi-Yemeni security cooperation is there any progress?
A: The cooperation between the two countries is going on in different fields especially in the security level. This is strengthened by the security agreement signed in 1996. The officials in the two countries are committed to it and state that the security of Yemen and Saudi Arabia is one.