Prince claims Yemen is not GCC material:GCC snub? [Archives:2004/706/Front Page]

January 26 2004

Yemen's government is in shock over the statement of a top Saudi minister that Yemen be locked out of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz said this week that “We refuse to have Yemen join the Gulf Cooperation Council” because Yemen, in Nayef's view, “is not a Gulf state.”
Yemen government sources say officials are all-the-more disappointed and surprised over the comments, since the Saudi prince has also been vocal in promoting the cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Yemen in security.
Yemen has been vying for formal GCC status for several years, and has some partial observer status on some committees, giving the impression, for a while anyway, that full membership may not be far off.
“Such statements do not serve the relations between the two countries and were unexpected and unacceptable,” said on unnamed Yemeni government official.
Even though Prince Nayef credited Yemen for cooperating with its neighboring kingdom in terms of security, he said Saudi Arabia had had to exert tremendous efforts to stop Yemenis from smuggling weapons into Saudi, by equipping Saudi border guards with sophisticated thermal cameras, and by extending long wired fences at the border.
“We have been able to stop the smuggling of 301 RPGs, 431 hand grenades, and 1,010 light weapons at the border in the last three months alone, all coming from the Yemeni territories.” he said.
Furthermore, governmental officials have expressed some concern that such statements would support the perspective of some who do not want Yemen to join the GCC, and want to succeed in having Yemen quit its application of joining.

Statements change nothing
A senior official in the Yemeni government told the Yemen Times that such statements are mere opinions that only represent those who give them, and are not to be considered in any way a reply to Yemen's application to join the GCC.
“We have applied in a formal and official manner, and we can only deal with an official response. Hence, such statements do not represent much for us in terms of our membership to the GCC.” the source said.
The statement of Prince Nayef is the second in a row after that of the Information Minister of the UAE Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan more than a week ago, when he said that Yemen is still “not qualified to join the GCC.”
However, Yemeni officials say they believe that, contrary to those two statements, official stances of the UAE and Saudi Arabia have so far been welcoming Yemen as a partner in many activities of the GCC, and have not rejected Yemen's request to join the 'rich countries league'.
Saleh: Football, then basketball
In a sarcastic manner, President Saleh said in an interview to Kuwaiti Rai Al-Aam newspaper that “Gulf States have started accepting Yemen to participate in GCC football tournaments.” And when asked about what the next stage would be, he answered, “Perhaps they would allow us to participate in GCC basketball tournaments.” He hinted that the process of joining the GCC is not taken seriously and may require a long time.
This comes in harmony to the public opinion that has been growing recently against the idea of joining the GCC and saving Yemen's face from humiliation in the long-run.
Several opposition figures have also urged the government and president to withdraw Yemen's request to join the GCC.
The independent and opposition press has also dedicated many of its columns and articles to this issue calling upon the government to 'stop begging for membership to the GCC' and continue its reforms to enhance economic and democratic performance.
Enough humiliation!
The overall feeling of the Yemeni public is that authorities in Gulf countries have always looked at Yemen from above, and have never taken Yemen as a country on the same level.
Observers believe that there is almost a constant and permanent feeling of superiority of Gulf States when dealing with Yemen.
They support their claim by noting the embarrassment caused to the Yemeni delegation that was in an official visit to Saudi Arabia recently headed by Yemen's Foreign Minister Dr. Abubakr Al-Qirbi, when the Yemeni minister could not find any high ranking official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs receiving him at the airport.
In diplomatic terms, the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, or a replacement in case of emergency, had to receive the Yemeni Foreign Minister, but none of them did.
Calls to abandon Yemen's request to join the GCC have increased in number and intensify recently for the sake of avoiding more humiliation and continuing life without the dependence on the council.