Yemen & France: Stronger Ties & Cooperation [Archives:1998/06/Law & Diplomacy]

February 9 1998

Mr. Christian Pierret the French State Minister of Industry, Energy, Post and Telecommunication, arrived in Yemen on February 6th. He met President Ali Abdullah Saleh; the Prime Minister, Mr. Faraj Bin Ghanim; the Minister of Communication; and the Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources. He also headed the French side in the joint Yemeni-French committee. He attended a press conference on Saturday, February 7th  at the French Ambassador’s residence in Sanaa. He answered question by various Yemeni and Arab journalists mainly regarding the crisis in Iraq and the bilateral Yemeni-French relations. Dr. Salah Haddash, the Yemen Times Managing Editor, met Mr. Pierret and filed this exclusive interview granted to Yemen Times.
Q: What are your impressions about the results of the Yemen-French joint committee meeting on Saturday February 7th? A: There are two main impressions. The first one is that between ’92 and ’97 the committee was not very active. Every 2 or 3 years we should have a meeting. I regret that it was not more intensive. Secondly, I think this committee is very useful. It could be fruitful, if we intend to re-ensure close cooperation, which needs more intensive decisions, especially on the problem of equipment and telecommunication. We must improve the ways and means in which we cooperate.
Q: To what extent were the previous recommendations of this committee implemented? A: In the previous meeting in ’92, recommendations were made but were not implemented between ’92 and now. I think there is only a decrease of the intensity but that is no problem. In the field of telecommunication assistance was provided. Half of this amount in gifts – FF 30 million as a gift and FF 40 million in loans. It was well implemented but not so intensive in order to achieve results and to be at the right level of which problems are in this country.
Q: Is telecommunication the only field in which you are cooperation? A: The development of telecommunications is the primary goal and postal development as a second issue. We could find an agreement about expertise and cooperation and education to re-organize the post office in order to be more efficient. The project is of 500,000 lines to create in the next 4 or 5 years. On all these issues there is a strong debate. If we like to implement this project, we should have the means to finance it. In order to do that, we must have an agreement with PTC in France and other European companies, not only French ones but Italian, German, etc. To seek these finances we need a letter of intent with which we can find such participation of European companies. We need about half of the financial needs. No company of any nationality could find this financing. We need to find other sponsors.
Q: Are we going to see French public investments in Yemen? A: There is a cooperation protocol signed by the two parties, with which loans can be provided. I cannot mention any figure because it depends on the evolution of the needs. Yemen is a priority for us in the Middle East. We are improving cooperation with the participation of private companies here a few fields perhaps new fields such as the industry. It is not only in telecommunication and gas, but also other sectors such water supply and treatment, fisheries, transportation, etc.
We seek to strengthen the cooperation. I think it should be more efficient and more intensive. I do believe in the opportunities for French companies in Yemen and for public cooperation. I am sure we need to have more business here. I met the French community here, and they are very keen on developing new ties in culture and economy. There is a huge opportunity for business with Yemen.
Q: What are your impressions about Yemen? A: I have not only visited a country, but also an ancient civilization that is older than mine. It is very impressive. The people here are very friendly and simple. They are great people. We could deal in various ways which can be of mutual benefit.
Q:  How do you evaluate the international role of Yemen? A: The Yemeni President has a personal influence in this region. That is why President Chirac has sent a message of friendship. Yemen is progressively playing an important role in this area.
Q: What is the French position regarding the current crisis in Iraq? A: The President of the Republic of France, Mr. Jacques Chirac has sent several official envoys to a number of Arab capitals. He sent a French minister to Yemen, not an ordinary envoy because the Yemeni-French relations are quite friendly and very strong. President Chirac has sent with the me a personal and friendly message to H.E. President Ali Abdullah Saleh, which included all the details regarding the latest French initiative to resolve the Iraqi issue. The French initiative favors the political and diplomatic solution, not the military action. It calls for justly implementing the UN resolutions.
The French government says that the elimination of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in Iraq is the condition for lifting the sanctions imposed on Iraq. We call for ending the sanctions after destroying these weapons. The UN weapons inspectors must make sure that all these weapons are destroyed. France knows that the Iraqi people are paying a high price. France considers implementing the UN weapons inspection must respect the sovereignty of Iraq and the Iraqi people. France suggests that the inspection teams must be balanced. The French efforts have opened the door for a diplomatic solution for the Iraqi issue. France will make all efforts to prevent a military action against Iraq.