President Saleh concludes visit to Moscow [Archives:2004/728/Local News]

April 12 2004

By Peter Willems
Yemen Times Staff

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh concluded his visit to Moscow during which he held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last Tuesday covering new arms deals, the improvement of bilateral relations and stability in the Middle East.
“The relations of Russia and Yemen have a historical character, and we are very pleased with the success that our cooperation has achieved,” said Saleh to the Russian press after the talks ended.
During the talks, Saleh and Putin cleared the road for several arms deals between the two countries. Russia began delivering military equipment to Yemen in 2000, when Russia sent 31 modern T-80 tanks. In 2001, the two countries signed a contract for the shipment of MiG-29 fighter planes, and the first batch of which was delivered in 2002.
Russian military sources said new contracts will be signed in the near future, and Russia will supply Yemen with anti-aircraft missile systems, helicopters and more fighter planes.
To ensure that arms deals are carried out more smoothly, the two leaders agreed to eliminate the use of weapons traders as intermediaries. In the future, arms transactions will only be handled by the two Defense Ministries.
“Arms deals between Yemen and Russia have always been present”, Abdul Karim Al-Ariani, former Yemeni Prime Minister and advisor to the President, told Yemen Times. “Yemen's armed forces are essentially equipped and trained with Russian arms and military strategies. Around 90% of Yemen's military equipment has come from Russia.”
Russian military equipment being sold to Yemen is estimated to have reached $8 billion in the last few years.
It is also reported that the two leaders had a similar vision on how the unstable conditions in the Middle East should be dealt with, including the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the situation worsening during the US occupation in Iraq. As for Yemen's recently developed peace initiative for the Middle East, Saleh said that Yemeni and Russian viewpoints are “identical.”
Yemen's own “roadmap” to peace is planned to be presented to the Arab League if the Arab leaders agree to reschedule the Arab summit that was cancelled by the Tunisian Government last month. The initiative calls for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by using an international force to protect Palestinians, the creation of a Palestinian state in the territories the Jewish state occupied in the 1967 war and an the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Golan Heights in Syria. For war-torn Iraq, Yemen's initiative proposes international forces under UN command building security, an Iraqi committee creating a constitution and elections being held within a year.
Russia is an active participant in the international quartet, including the European Union, the United States and the United Nations, which is attempting to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The region is complex, and we watch with great attention the situation in the region and in your country,” the Russian President said to Saleh.
The two leaders also discussed an increase in trade between Yemen and Russia. Putin said that although the two countries have not yet reached their potential, Russian businesses are anxious to invest in Yemen.
Saleh is the first Arab leader to meet Putin after he was re-elected in mid-March.
“President Saleh is the first Arab head of state to visit President Putin after he was recently re-elected”, said Al-Ariani. “This relationship has always produced positive results. It's not difficult to negotiate or agree with the Russians. It's in this framework for continued bilateral relations, congratulating President Putin on his re-election and, of course, discussing all topics related to the region.”
During his trip to Russia, Saleh also had talks with other government officials, including Bures Zezaneov, Chairman of the Parliament, and Michael Dimtreeve, Deputy Minister of Defense.
This was the second time in the last 18 months that Saleh visited Russia, as his last visit was in November 2002. He has plans to travel to France on April 14 and have talks with French President Jacques Chirac. It is expected that the two leaders will discuss conditions in the Middle East and cooperation between the two countries.