Yemeni diplomat: Lebanon could be Yemen’s window on the Mediterranean and Europe [Archives:2008/1117/Reportage]

December 3 2008

Interview by: Monday Morning, a Lebanese newspaper.
How do you evaluate Lebanese-Yemeni relations, and what is being done to strengthen them?

We can say that since the dawn of history, relations between the North and the South of the Arab region have been very cordial, regardless of any political barriers. They are very close at the moment and are being consolidated.

In Lebanon, as in the rest of the Arab world, there is hardly any place which is not inhabited by people whose ancestors came from Yemen, which the ancient Romans called Arabia Felix, “Fortunate Arabia” Relations are like fruit trees: they require continuous care and attention in order to be preserved.

On my part, I believe that the development and strengthening of relations will come through the progress of economic interests and commercial profits, through cultural exchange and the movement of capital, and through investment between the two countries and the achievement of joint projects

Lebanon could be Yemen's window on the Mediterranean and Europe, and Yemen could be Lebanon's window on the Arab countries of the Gulf and on the Horn of Africa and East Africa.

Has Yemen contributed to helping the Lebanese regions devastated by the war of July-August 2006 or participated in reconstruction of the devastated areas?

The Yemeni people highly appreciate the exceptional heroism of the Lebanese, Muslims, Christians, Druzes and others, in their intrepid struggle against the enemy. They have won legendary victories and achieved acts of bravery and sacrifice for their country and their just cause.

During the war of the summer of 2006 and the barbarous aggression against Lebanon, Yemenis young and old were quick to support the heroic defense of the Resistance, of the Lebanese government and the valiant and resisting people. Whatever the amount of assistance given to them, it could not be commensurate with the courage and sacrifices of this fraternal people.

Yemen, like all Arab countries, sent containers carrying assistance and planes were dispatched to bring help, defying the savage and indiscriminate bombing in order to bring aid to the Lebanese people in their resistance.

Yemen is committed to rebuilding and repairing the damage done to the village of Bourj al-Shemali. This represents only a drop of water in the sea of sacrifices made by the Lebanese for the dignity of the Arabs.

What is Sanaa's stand on the Iranian nuclear program, which some say is a threat to the countries of the Arab Gulf?

Whether a country is large or small, it is obliged to respect and comply with international conventions, resolutions and charters. We in Yemen support the right of Iran to acquire nuclear technology for peaceful objectives, and we share the concerns of the states of the Gulf. We are united with them by geography. It isnecessary that a party which aspires to this technology should give sufficient assurances and guarantees.

Do you approve the Arab initiative for peace with Israel formulated by Saudi Arabia during the Beirut summit in 2002?

The initiative of the Saudi sovereign, King Abdallah bin Abdelaziz, adopted during the Arab summit in Beirut, was elaborated and adopted after consultations between President Ali Abdallah Saleh, King Abdallah bin Abdelaziz and the Arab heads of state at the Beirut summit.

Is Yemen contributing to bringing about a rapprochement of the Palestinian organizations Hamas and Fateh? And was it in agreement with the holding of a peace conference at Annapolis?

The events which have occurred in the West Bank and Gaza are truly painful and regrettable between brothers defending the same just cause but dragged into secondary conflicts which they should avoid at any price, conflicts which are of small importance compared with the great challenges confronting the Palestinians and the entire Arab nation.

Yemen has always stood beside the Palestinian people. It will not abandon this cause but will continue to assist the heroic and resisting Palestinian people. We support any conference that will bring the Palestinians together in their objectives, aims and common fate.

The Annapolis conference was held with the aim of achieving a peace settlement. We took part in it beside our Arab and Muslim brothers. But we remain mistrustful since there have been many dialogues and conferences which have been unjust to the Palestinians, inequitable to the Syrians and iniquitous to the Lebanese. This is why we must take the greatest care to ensure coordination and cooperation [among the Arabs]. Everything will be useless if the breaches are not closed between the brothers of Fateh, Hamas and the other Palestinian organizations.

Problems to resolve

What problems now confront the government of Yemen?

Like governments in other countries, the government of Yemen faces numerous problems, notably economic and social problems generated by unfruitful policies. What is required is reform adapted to the needs of the people and based on the experience of other countries.

The defects have been defined and steps have been taken to deal with unemployment, fight corruption, control population growth, exploit natural resources, increase the amount of land devoted to agriculture, develop industry, create an appropriate and developed economic atmosphere, support the service sector and focus effort on developing tourism. At the same time we aim to consolidate the constitutional institutions, the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, the drafting of practical and pertinent legislation, and cooperation with neighboring countries.

Is Yemen threatened by terrorism, and is it contributing to the struggle against it?

No country is safe from terrorism. This phenomenon must be carefully studied concerning the nature of its causes in order to determine appropriate solutions, then eradicated.

Would you have preferred to be assigned to a diplomatic post in a country less agitated than Lebanon?

Lebanon was my first choice. I opted for this country, which I find marvelous and splendid, both the land and the people. We thank God for creating this extraordinary and superb country.

Doesn't it say in holy scripture that the olive branch announcing the end of the Flood was brought to the Prophet Noah by a dove coming from Lebanon?

How does Yemen see the situation in Iraq and the means of pacifying it?

The future of Iraq is in the hands of its people, who are quite capable of putting an end to the invasion. We support the noble and civilized Iraqi people, on whom God has bestowed natural wealth, men of literature and learning, a beautiful country and water resources.

Iraq has a good future. There will be an awakening and a new maturity after the long years of suffering, massacres and destruction. It will rise from its ashes like the phoenix. The country created great civilizations and is able to create another. May God protect that country and its people and spare them further sorrow.

What has been the best moment of your diplomatic career?

In fact, it was the day I was appointed ambassador to Lebanon, and that's not just a diplomatic reply.

What is your wish for Lebanese-Yemeni relations, and for the Yemeni community in Lebanon at this festive time of year?

I would have failed in my mission as a diplomat if I did not promote cultural and political relations between our countries. There really is no “ceiling” for these relations, which can progress and widen in accordance with our common interests and objectives and our will to improve them.

At a time when the holy shrines of Mecca and Medina are receiving pilgrims from all countries, and when the church bells are ringing to celebrate the birth of Christ, I extend to the Yemeni community in Lebanon and the Lebanese community in Yemen my best wishes, and I pray to God that the Lebanese may be brought together in front of the presidential palace and the Grand Serail to share joy and seasonal greetings together.