Yemen Buys 12 Czech Planes [Archives:1999/14/Front Page]

April 5 1999

Aero Vodochody of the Czech Republic, with a 25% ownership stake by American Boeing, is concluding a deal according to which Yemen will take possession of 12 L-159 light fighter planes. The details of the deal were worked out during a stop-over in Sanaa by Czech Foreign Minister, Mr. Jan Kavan, during 2-3 April, 1999. 
In an interview with Yemen Times, the Czech official said that his government was eager to build up cooperation with Yemen in all fields. 
The Czech Foreign Minister was received by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Prime Minister Abdul-Karim Al-Iryani, in addition to his talks with Foreign Minister Abdul-Qader Ba-Jammal, as well as many other civilian and military officials. 
Sources at the Aviation College and Air Defence Forces told the Yemen Times that the planes will be used to train airforce pilots. They also indicated that the planes, with their ability to land and take off quickly from small fields, will come in handy to engage in tribal skirmishes, especially those associated with cases of kidnapping. 
Q: Would you please introduce yourself? 
A: I am the Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic. I took charge of the foreign minister office in July 1998. Following the elections in which my party won. Since we did not have a majority to form the government, we had to form a coalition government with one of the major opposition parties. So to have a period of stability, and the major parties had agreed not to disturbed the government, in order to have four years of stable government. In other words we are a minority government. 
In the sixties I was active in what was known as the ‘Black Spring’ which was crashed by the Oslo pact in 1968. In 1969 I was forced to immigrate to United kingdom, and I lived there for twenty years trying to help the Czech opposition from London by sending literature and finances. I was running a press agency, where we were printing and publishing materials on the situation back home and made it available to the International governments and media. In November 1998 I was one of the first Czech immigrants to return. I was elected as a member of parliament. 
Q: What is the purpose of your visit? 
A: The main purpose was to send out a clear signal that the Czech Republic would like to renew the traditional friendship and collaboration with Yemen. We have relations that started a long way back, to be more precise in 1938, when we signed the Friendship Treaty. Beside the political signal, we also want to improve the economical cooperation between Yemen and the Czech Republic, which had subsided a bit in the last few years, partly because of my predecessors had not paid sufficient attention to countries outside Europe, which I think was psychologically understandable after the collapse of the communist government, but politically unwise, and I want to make clear that we are now back on the road of having a good relationship with our traditional partners in countries outside Europe. 
We appreciate the Yemeni government’s economic reforms, and the stability Yemen achieved. The talk I had yesterday with Yemeni businessmen and some of the Yemeni graduates from the Czech who had stressed the significance of improving cooperation. Also the Yemeni Foreign Minister had suggested to have an agreement to renew the Czech-Yemeni joint economic commission, and we have draw a draft which I am taking with me, and I’m sure my government will agree to it, so that the ministry of Industry could finalize the agreement, which can be signed later this year. 
Q: What was the outcome of your meetings with the Foreign Minister and the Prim Minister? 
A: One of the main outcome was an agreement to proceed with setting up of the joint commission as I have mentioned earlier. Within this commission there is a number of concrete trade possibilities e.g. Cars, trucks, offers in cooperating with your energy Industry all the way to offers even on our own visibility studies, which several years ago we gave as a gift to Yemen if there is a sufficient interests to make use of our experience in drilling. We also discussed the possibility of mature tourism and the framework the commission. We also welcomed the recent agreement we reached for Yemen to buy 12 of our light aircraft and some other concrete contracts have been agreed upon in principal. We want to maintain good relations, and this will be expressed by appointing a new ambassador. The new ambassador will also bring an invitation from my prim minister to the Yemeni prim minister to visit the Czech Republic. 
Q: What are your impressions of Yemen? 
A: I appreciate that the foreign minister made time to meet me during the last day of the holiday, I also appreciate the fact that I could find time in my program to see part of Sana’a city, and it made a good impression on me, it is a very impressive city and I hope you will preserve this beautiful city. Your democracy also is a remarkable achievement. 
Q: What is the purpose of your visit? 
A: I am here to meet with Yemeni officials and discuss ways and means to strengthen bilateral ties. Yemen and the Czech Republic agree on many regional and international. We are open to cooperation in all fields. 
Q: What exactly have you been discussing? 
A: We have some pending issues. For example, we are negotiating the sale of L-159 fighter planes. These are small trainer planes. We have discussed and agreed to elevate our diplomatic representation to the level of ambassadors. We are considering joint investments in the Container Terminal. Several options are on the table, including the assembly of Czech cars at Aden. We have some 2,500 Yemeni students in Prague and other cities. These are on Czech scholarships. 
So, as you can see we have had substantive talks. 
Q: Your country has just joined NATO. How do you see this association evolving? 
A: Yes, we have just joined NATO. This is normal and logical as my country is at the center of Europe. We hope to play a constructive role in inter-European relations as well as international relations. NATO is an important player in world stability, peace and harmony. 
Q: But your government has reservations on NATO strikes against Serbia. 
A: That is not correct. We are, of course, unhappy with the human suffering and the war situation, but as part as NATO we support all its moves.