YEMEN & SAUDI ARABIA: New Escalation in an Already Tense Relationship [Archives:1998/29/Front Page]

July 20 1998

Saudi Arabia and Yemen are two neighbors that have tried and failed to be good friends. The problem is basically the lack of trust between the leaderships of the two countries. There are two reasons:
1) Saudi Arabia routinely exercises influence in Yemeni affairs. It used to be accepted by the Yemenis. But as Yemen grew – through reunification, democratization, etc. – Saudi influence is being resisted.
2) Then there is the undefined border separating the two countries. Historically, expansionist Saudi Arabia took advantage of all its neighbors. Recently, the Saudis saw new advantage in Yemen’s internal difficulties. The Saudis announced “We are not bound by the border agreement between Yemen and Oman” concluded in 1991. They claim that the agreement incorporates territories claimed by Saudi Arabia.
Yemen and Oman responded by issuing their own disclaimers.
The Yemeni regime, in spite of repeated concessions, failed to impress on the Saudis. Maybe the problem is in the approach. President Saleh has been using corrupt officials who receive hand-outs from Saudi Arabia to negotiate on Yemen’s behalf.
It is as if he is unable to find patriotic and able Yemenis who can stand up for Yemen’s rights and interests.