Reactions to the Treaty [Archives:2000/26/Interview]

June 26 2000

Apart from Sheikh Bin Shaji’ and his tribe (Wa’ila), almost everyone from different backgrounds and affiliations are quite satisfied with the treaty, which has indeed given Yemen more than 35,000 sq. kms back.
In order to get the reactions of political parties and influential figures, Yemen Times interviewed some of the personalities, who have great influence in the political scene and can contribute a lot in providing a thorough understanding of the overall reaction of Yemenis to the treaty. After all the interviews were conducted, the overall sense seems to be satisfaction, relief, and hope for a better future.
Dr. Mohamed Abulmalik Al-Mutawakkil
” I do approve any settlement that solves the boarders dispute between Yemen and Saudi Arabia for this will certainly clear the tense atmosphere that has permeated the relations of the two countries for a long period of time. Besides, it’ll promote and enhance cooperation for the benefit of the people in general. This may also give Yemen access to joining the Gulf Cooperation Council.
It is, as a matter of fact, hard to comment on the treaty at such a stage and I believe that it will be some time before we know the real intentions. The treaty does not clearly stipulate everything. The only thing that was clear was the Al-Taif Treaty signed by the Imam and the late Abdulaziz.
My personal point of view is that I don’t bother much about the geographical limits between two brotherly Muslim countries. That is because the geographical boarders are either the result of deadly, backward tribalistic thinking or the result of colonization culture that imposed artificial borders between the people of one nation. Besides, at the present time many countries are tending to leave these borders aside and become more interested in the scope of interests between countries. Europe, for example, indulged in two world geographical wars. However, it has now become interested in the scope of mutual interests.
Thus, we can evaluate the Yemeni-Saudi treaty from this respect; that is in terms of the benefits that the two countries are going to gain and whether this treaty could settle the conflict over the borders. If the treaty does not lead to benefits for the two countries, the geographical agreement does not solve the problem. Rather it complicates it. Yemenis do think that the geographical agreement won’t, after all, be to their benefit for negotiations are resolved around the Yemeni lands. So the question that pops up in everybody’s mind is how much Saudis will leave for us or how much land we give up to them?
Going beyond the geographical domains to the more important; the idea of mutual benefits to all the people in the Arab peninsula is the only thing that will solve disputes over borders.
Dr. Mohammed Ali Al-Saqqaf, Lawyer
It is actually too early to analyze the International Boarders Treaty between the Republic of Yemen and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia signed in Jeddah on June 12, 2000. A delay is attributed to the Yemeni government putting off announcing the articles of the treaty until June 22. This delay has actually created ambiguity and doubt in regard to the articles of this treaty. Contrary to the Treaty of Agreement signed between Yemen and Saudi Arabia in February 26, 1995 and published the very next day February 27, the new treaty signed June 12 was not published until June 22. This delay may be intentional; that is, to prepare the public opinion to accept the treaty before knowing its articles. Besides, this has granted the Parliament insufficient time to discuss it before endorsing it.
The positive thing about the treaty is that it was signed without indulging in a war between the two countries. Contrary to this treaty, the treaty of Al-Taif in May 1934 was signed after the military confrontations and the subsequent defeat of the Imam’s military forces. Neither did it happen after a national war such as that treaty of agreement signed in February 1995 which happened after the war of 1994.
Some features of the treaty can be noted in the following:
1) It is an agreement to reach an overall, permanent and complete settlement for the marine and land borders between Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
2) The new treaty stipulates in article no (1) the obligation and legitimacy of the Al-Taif Treaty and its annexes which shows the Saudi party is suspicious of the Yemeni legal and political claim that the Al-Taif Treaty is not legal, mainly because it was signed by force following the defeat of Imam by the Saudi forces. Therefore, the Saudi party felt it important to refer to that treaty as legal and obligatory in both treaties; that of agreement in 1995 and in the new one.
3) The new treaty did not include any statement about the way to solve new disputes in case they occur. However, article no. (8) of the Al-Taif Treaty envisages that disputes are to be solved either through negotiations or through arbitration. Article no (4) of the treaty of agreement stipulated the same thing.
4) Clause (a) of article no. (4) stipulated that problems in specifying the identity of villages located at the border line will be solved in accordance with the Al-Taif treaty and in case any villages are located on the coordinate, identity is to be defined according to their tribal affiliation. Then, the course of the border line will be modified accordingly, while fixing the border signs. Now the question is what are the criteria for specifying the identity of a village; Is it the nationality or blood relationship or geographical factors?
Are the authorities of the two countries unaware of the identity of the villages that belong to each country and are located on this line? Or is this clause a mere excuse to modify the line course when fixing the demarcation marks?
5) If a thorough study is conducted and reveals that the government of Yemen gave up some of its lands to the Kingdom, won’t this be a violation of article no (1) of the Yemeni constitution that stipulates that the Republic of Yemen is an indivisible part and it is not sanctioned to give up any part of it? In this case the constitutional article should be amended first so as to endorse the treaty. This is the lawful and legal procedure that was followed by the European Union countries when amending the constitutions of its member countries before endorsing Maastricht Agreement. I do wonder if the government headed by the PGC will depend on its members, the majority, to endorse the treaty. Dr. Abdulkarim Iryani himself stated in a press release to the London-based newspaper, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat in May 6, 1997 that the majority that the PGC enjoys in the Parliament will make things easy for it to endorse any international agreement and any border agreement with brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
6) Americans played an important role in solving the obstacles that could have prevented the agreement of February 26, 1995. This role was asserted by a statement made by Dr. Iryani, foreign minister at the time, to Al-Sharak Al-Awsat newspaper in 30.1.1995. The question that arises now is “Did the Americans play the same role?”
In this context, it is worth mentioning that Mr. Edward Walker, assistant foreign minister, expressed Washington’s willingness to help Yemen and Saudi Arabia solve border disputes between the two countries adding that he had already discussed this with President Ali Abdullah Saleh and that he planned to discuss the same issue with Saudi officials.
In short, if the new treaty is fair and just, it is certain that the coming generations will protect and keep it. However, if it is otherwise, the same problems will continue to exist.”
MP, Mohammed Ali Al-Shadadi
Mohammed Ali Al-Shadadi, MP, said “My view is that solving the border dispute between Yemen and Saudi Arabia through dialogue is a victory regardless of whether we give up or recover some lands at the present time. However, the point is “what will happen after the treaty?”, Will the people of the two countries overcome the psychological restraints and pull together as they used to in the past? Will this treaty create an atmosphere of peace and security in the relations of the two countries?
I think if intentions are good and there is a real commitment and conviction in the implementation of Al-Taif Treaty and the Treaty of Agreement as stated in the new treaty in article no (1), this will constitute a promising future for the welfare of the people in the two countries.
RAY Party
On the reaction of the Sons of Yemen League Party (RAY) to the Yemeni-Saudi treaty, Dr. Ahmed Abdullah Al-Sheikh Abu Bakr, Manager of the main office of the Party expressed satisfaction and delight.
“Upon the signing of the treaty, all RAY members expressed their happiness and relief as this treaty is considered a milestone in our relationship. We hope that it would signal a starting point towards strengthening our brotherly relationship, as it will definitely result in development, prosperity, and security for both nations and the region as a whole.” He said “We in Sons of Yemen League Party (RAY) have been calling since the fifties for better relationships, especially with our neighbors, headed by Saudi Arabia and Gulf States. Hence, we announced our support of the treaty hours after it was signed, even before we knew its details. This ensures our undeviating stand in this regard, which is documented in our calls and stands during the last half century. In addition to that, we at RAY believe that national issues should never be used or manipulated for our own internal disagreements, whatever height these disagreements with the authorities may reach. We at RAY, want to emphasize our trust in
those who have participated in border discussions at different stages on behalf of our country until the final treaty was reached. We also want to stress that we were not seeking to know the details of the border treaty once it was announced, because it required thorough involvement and understanding of its specific details, and needs the assistance of experts to evaluate them. These facilities are only available to the ones who dealt with the border discussions directly during their various phases.”
Dr. Ahmed then concluded, “We at RAY, believe that our country’s national interest lies in strong and unique relations with neighboring countries. This will enable Yemen to play a positive and leading role at present and in the future of the region, in the Arab World and the whole world as well. We strongly believe that to achieve this, we need another courageous step towards the same goal by starting an inclusive dialogue and reconciliation and national reunion of all local forces in an attempt to push forward the development process and a change for the better for our nation and country. We need to embed unity’s basics and beliefs into our lives and strengthen democratic practices in all ways. We need to establish law and order on a local scale first. Implementing these will be a wise step that has always proved successful throughout history.
Islah Party
The Islah’s (Yemeni Congregation for Reform Party) reaction was extremely positive, and is expectedly the strongest positive response among all opposition parties in favor of the treaty. In that regard, Mohamed Qahtan, Chairman of the political circle of the Islah Party expressed his reaction to the treaty in three points, the first was that “the Jeddah treaty has indeed put an end to a conflict that lasted for so long between the two countries. The border conflict was the main contributor to the disputes between the two countries at various levels. The conflict even provided a suitable environment for the evolvement of leftist movements in some parts of the country in the past.”Qahtan then complimented President Saleh in his second point by saying, “President Saleh, with a courageous move that he took on his own signed the treaty, but he didn’t do that until he was confident that all his great efforts had resulted in a suitable environment that enabled a breakthrough solution for this long conflict. He was able to convert a ‘a legend to a reality ‘ as Dr. Al-Iryani once said. What is even more significant is how he has transformed what has once been seen as a sinful, or even a taboo act to a noble, courageous, and heroic deed to the nation. All of this was achieved after a long journey of awareness campaigns and persistent work on bringing the facts to the public. He was able to do what he did through his intelligence and wisdom and through his initiative and experience in dealing with such issues. He was able to achieve what he achieved by using his political tactics that he is famous for, and through his strength in taking decisions swiftly and accurately. All of these have all gathered in one man, and resulted in this great historic achievement.”On his third remark, he stated,”if the Jeddah treaty is to be considered a historic treaty, there must always be a share for Geography. We can probably give half the credit to geography by calling the treaty a historic geographic achievement as well. This gives a share to history and to geography as well, as it has also been quite significant in many historic achievements.”Finally, he concluded his statement by wishing that Yemen “would have celebrated this great occasion in the same way as our brotherly neighboring Kingdom celebrations.”Brigadier General Ali Hassan Al-Shater
Signing the treaty of international land and sea borders between the republic of Yemen and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Jedda, 12 June, 2000, is an historic accomplishment. It is a great deed by the political leaderships of the two countries represented by President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Custodian of the two Holy Mosques King Fahd Ben Abdul Aziz.
By taking this courageous and wise decision, the two political leaderships managed to find a solution and settle a very complicated problem. It has persistently overshadowed the brotherly relations between the two peoples and countries and constituted a source of tension and conflict.
Undoubtedly, the outcomes of this historic achievement will be positively reflected in future relations, cooperation, integration and exchange of interests, securing the future of the coming generations. This achievement would also help stabilize security and stability in the Arab peninsula and the region in general.
On this occasion we express our great appreciation to President Ali Abdullah Saleh who has added a new achievement to his record of national accomplishments. We are looking forward to seeing more brotherly and cooperative relations between the Yemeni Republic and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the interests of all.
MP Muhsin Ali Omer Bassurah
It is very good to have the treaty on international borders between our country and Saudi Arabia signed on 12 June 2000 by foreign ministers of the two countries. But it is to be regretted that the legislative power ( parliament ), and the committee especially set up for this purpose did not pay due attention to this subject. The committee’s report contained no more than articles of the treaty and excerpts from its annexes. We were hoping that certain questions be asked and be answered by the government. There are questions in the minds of parliament members and the citizens, and the answers need to be in writing. The parliamentary committee has only submitted two recommendations at the end of its report. We have been demanding that the parliament chairmanship and the council give an opportunity to question the government because it is a treaty and not an oil agreement to be passed in such a way.
A number of parliament members had in their minds questions about Yemeni labor, and many of them were intending to have the Empty Quarter a region to be administered by all of the parties overlooking it, especially Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. That is because it is an area rich with mineral and water resources.
To sum up, we congratulate and give our blessings to the two leaderships and peoples on this event, hoping that friendliness and stability return to the peninsula..We would like to tell our esteemed government that one of the factors on which we have been pinning our mistakes has gone. It has now to exert all efforts for construction, development and fighting corruption and the corrupt.