People’s Diplomacy at Work: YBFS Holds ‘Bridge’ Meeting [Archives:1999/06/Law & Diplomacy]

February 8 1999

The Yemeni-British Friendship Society assigned its last periodic meeting to discuss the deterioration in the Yemeni-British relations. Held at the residence of Dr. Abdullah Abdul-Wali Nasher, the meeting was held on Friday, February 5th.
16 senior members of the YBFS, including two ministers, high-ranking government and political officials, university professors, medical doctors, businessmen, bankers, and others attended. From the British side, Ambassador Victor Henderson and DCM David Pearce were at the head of a large delegation of businessmen, government officials, and others.
The topic of discussion was totally focussed on the recent events and their fallout on the bilateral relations. The tone of the discussion was quite open, as the two sides tried to play a moderating influence on their respective camps.
Dr. Nasher, Chairman of the YBFS indicated that Yemen was learning how to handle issues within a democratic framework. “If we mishandle a situation, it is not due to bad intentions, but because we are new at this,” explained Dr. Nasher.
Ambassador Henderson explained that as events unfolded, there was a problem of information flow. There were also procedural confusion. But by now the situation has stabilized.
“In fact, I think there are positive developments. A letter from (British) Prime Minister Tony Blair is on its way. I am given to understand that this letter has a positive content,” he said.
Abdul-Wahab Thabet, a leading supporter and patron of the YBFS, stressed the need for flexibility on both sides. “We should together fight the terrorists and criminals, instead of fighting each other,” he said referring to the British and Yemeni Governments.
What has been hurting Yemen is the barrage of media attacks. The British side explained that they cannot control the media. “But it would be worthwhile for the Yemeni authorities to assign a spokesperson to brief the local and international media on trial developments. It would also be useful for the Yemeni embassy in London to furnish information on a regular basis to the media and the general public,” it was suggested.
Meanwhile, the fourth sitting of the court on the case of 5 Britons and 1 Frenchman was on Saturday, February 6th. The group is charged with possession of firearms with the intention of sabotage and destabilizing law and order. Media announcements by various extremist elements in the UK have alleged that the group was part of an international network of zealots.