Saudi relations could improve [Archives:2005/806/Viewpoint]

January 10 2005

When I think about it, I feel it is truly ironic to have visited most Arab countries, All Western Europe, the Americas, Africa, East Asia and not visit our neighbor Saudi Arabia.

Then came the moment when I met my ambitions and made my first ever visit to our neighboring kingdom, and it was truly a spectacular visit.

When I arrived to Jeddah upon an invitation by Okaz Newspaper, I made my first journey to the Holy Islamic sites in Mecca where I had the opportunity to do Umra, something that Muslims all around the world hope to do.

I felt lucky and satisfied to have seized the opportunity to experience the inner satisfaction of approaching the holiest Muslim sites of all, and to be as close to God as can be.

But then again, the visit as a whole had another impact on me. The visit enabled me to feel truly un-politicized love of Saudis to Yemenis. This feeling was sensed throughout the neighborhoods I visited and I also felt it in various levels from the people in the street to high-ranking Saudi individuals.

During our talks with staffers and management of Okaz Newspaper and also those at the Saudi Gazette, I felt that Saudis have a special connection with Yemenis. This connection has been steady for so many years ever since the foundation of the kingdom. Yemenis used to be welcome as if they were regular countrymen. They would own property, start investments, and live their lives with ease and comfort.

But politics sometimes is merciless.

The unfortunate 1990 Second Gulf War and the consequences of the war in the return of hundreds of thousands of Yemenis from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, and the subsequent new laws that were imposed on Yemenis, have all contributed to putting Yemenis in many troubles and made them lose a lot of privileges they had in the past.

One could say it is the bill of Yemen's stance in that war, others would suggest that such a thing would have happened any way sooner or later, but now that 14 years have past, there is little use of blaming one side or the other.

After the Jeddah treaty of 2000, relations started improving radically, and Yemenis were able to work more freely and with less restrictions.

However, the future is what matters the most.

Yemeni immigrants in Saudi Arabia are now suffering from a potential loss of many jobs if the current plan to turn over most of the jobs taken by foreigners to Saudis. The reason is that most of those jobs are being held by Yemenis, some who don't even know their country and have been living in Saudi Arabia for many decades.

There are risks that many Yemenis would be affected by certain reforms that the kingdom may apply.

Nevertheless, it is us who need to develop solutions and long-term plans to avert a possible disaster. That is why I felt from the Saudi officials whom I met that the priority now is to take Yemen's hand and lift the country from its economic stagnancy so it could develop its won investments and provide its own employment opportunities.

Our Saudi neighbors have pledged to create investment opportunities by pouring capital into our country and hence revive many economic sectors.

It remains to be seen whether this will be done, but Yemenis everywhere hope that the word would be kept, and our neighbors would value – as they always did – the ties and historic relations with their neighbor.