Yemen’s ambassador Dr. Al-Qubaty to Lebanon speaks to the Yemen Times:”Yemen had stood by Lebanon in its critical times, and rejects interference in its local affairs.” [Archives:2004/770/Community]

September 6 2004

By Walid Al-Saqqaf
Yemen Times Staff

He took office early this year as the Ambassador of the Republic of Yemen to Lebanon. He had shown political ingenuity during different stages of his career, and has been well-respected by all sides of the political equation in Yemen including government, opposition, and independent thinkers.
Dr. Mohamed Qubaty Ph.D, FRCS had started emerging as a highly respected intellect and politician during his career in the 1990s, as a prominent official in General People's Congress (GPC), the ruling party of the time. Before he started his work as ambassador in Beirut, Dr. Qubaty served as the head of the political department of the GPC and was outspoken for his moderate views and rational opinions on various local and international issues.
He was kind enough to receive Walid Al-Saqqaf, Editor of Yemen Times at his residence in Beirut and gave the following interview.

Q: Firstly, we would like to congratulate you on your new post as ambassador to Lebanon in such a sensitive time. Among the recent developments here is the security resolution on Lebanon. Could we get your perspective and opinion on it, especially concerning Yemen's stance?
A: Having come recently from Yemen after the successful visit of a Lebanese Prime Minister to Yemen, I want to affirm that Yemen stands by Lebanon in these times and supports its full sovereignty, that can not be undermined by the recent Security Council resolution.
Unfortunately the recent developments you referred to are quite worrying. I particularly would like to say that the Security Council resolution on Lebanon and Syria was taken so hastily and shows that there is a lot of work to be done by Arab countries in unifying their stances, and protecting their rights at the United Nations, and on all levels. Having said so, the resolution also shows the new reality and new world order we are now facing in which the American power and influence is enormous. The USA's ability to pass so easily such a resolution at the UN's Security Council and in such a short period of time is truly a source of concern, especially taking into consideration the earlier resolutions passed with US pressure such as the two on Iraq, and Darfur in Sudan.
As an Arab and a diplomat, what worries me most is the level of weakness and ineffectiveness we have reached as Arab nations. We even failed to prove our cases which we see rightly and undeniably just, and couldn't get our message through. As you see, the resolution has passed while we were merely spectators at the Security Council and failed to convince any of the members to vote against it. Even China, which we had hoped would veto the resolution, simply abstained, signaling the danger that is now evident in our position as Arab countries.
As for Yemen, it has stood by Lebanon in its critical times, and rejected interference in its local affairs.

Q: As mentioned, Arab diplomacy failed to prevent the security resolution, but Yemen had an initiative in unifying Arab countries' stances, but how do you view our influence as a country to change this status of total weakness and vulnerability?
A: Yemen had, in the past, presented initiatives to integrate efforts and unify stances in pan-Arab and even regional levels. We have seen what happened in Iraq and its implications on the whole region. We have come to notice how quickly resolutions can be passed and how it is important to take new steps that would give Arabs a stronger position in making their word heard. Yemen had tried to present an idea that would have made Arab countries reach an accord through which they could not only cooperate but also coordinate their way of approach in locally, regionally and internationally significant issues. It is a pity that our proposals were not seriously taken into consideration in recent summits. It was also sad to see the Tunis Summit resulting in such a huge disappointing failure, even though common stances and positions, were shared
Arab nations, need now to think of ways to coordinate their steps and relations based on their interests and future perspectives.
If our relations were built on interest, this last Security Council resolution would have not easily passed because Lebanon, Syria and other Arab countries would have shared very strong interest-related relations.

Q: So, what is the urgent step that Yemen and other countries need to take now to avoid further potential damage through another possible revolution to be passed in the near future?
A: After we saw what had happened in Iraq, and thinking of what could happen in the future, we end up with a strong conclusion that there is a lot at stake and time is running out. What we need to do right away is begin integrating ourselves in the current era. We are left behind and are crawling behind other nations in terms of coping with the demands of the new world order. For example, we could have benefited greatly if we had voluntarily suggested sending Arab police forces to Iraq. We would have helped to tackle the security problem in Iraq. Instead of running away from our responsibilities, we must confront and face them because things will eventually come to our doorstep if we ignore them over and over again. We must take initiatives seriously and effectively to avoid serious repercussions in the future.

Q: Coming to bilateral relations between Lebanon and Yemen, could you brief us about your agenda and work in promoting those relations?
A: When I first started my post in Beirut, I was quite amazed to see that Yemen had never had a delegation in the rank of prime minister visiting our country before. So I planned and facilitated the first visit of a Lebanese Prime Minister to Yemen. This was a proper step that was in the right direction.
Unfortunately however, we are now predicting a change in the government, forcing us to wait for some time for the bilateral relations promotion plans to start. Nevertheless, the visit of Mr. Rafeeq Al-Hariri to Yemen has shown the great potential and possibilities to cooperate and work together in. There were several meetings of Lebanese and Yemeni businessmen and it was concluded that Yemen was a virgin country that can offered great investment potential to Lebanese businessmen. Such meetings were important to identify the barriers and problems facing the improvement of relations between the two countries. There was a plan to have a Yemeni goods exhibition in Lebanon and another fair in Sanaa for Lebanese exhibitions, but it is still on paper. The trade between the two countries is still too small and we need to enhance it. We must develop effective ways to increase trade and bring mutual benefit for both peoples. This is common between most Arab countries as trade relations between Arab countries is quite low compared to similar cases throughout the world.

Q: The number of Lebanese experts in Yemen is on the rise. However, Yemen is in need of a lot of human resources. Can there be a specific program for human resource development in Yemen with Lebanese help?
A: There is a visit planned, of the Minister of Education of Lebanon to Yemen, as the Lebanese government had offered to assist Yemen develop its educational and vocational training standards. There will be at least 30 scholarships on offer to Yemenis to come and study in Lebanon. We will work together in identifying the most important specialties deeply needed in Yemen. As you have mentioned, Lebanese in general are skilful people and their country has one of the highest educational standards in the Arab world. They have exported skills and training to various Arab countries. I also believe we can learn from them in tourism also.
I am glad to inform you that we have now witnessed the birth of the Lebanese Yemen Fraternity Association headed by Lebanese Minister of Tourism, and that will help Yemen build our country's skills in this industry.

Q: The Yemeni-Lebanese Fraternity Association headed by Mr. Yahya Mohamed Abdullah Saleh has been an active body promoting relations between the two countries, especially in tourism. How do you evaluate the importance of cooperation in this sector?
A: Indeed, the tourism sector in Yemen is in need for greater assistance as it was affected by the Abyan event of 1998. We have, however, encouraged Lebanese companies to invest in the tourism sector in Yemen especially as it is considered unexploited. However, we also understand that stability and security are essential before any investments. But Lebanese companies are aware of the potential of Yemen, and we may soon hear good news of some Lebanese investments.

Q: Our final question is personal. How had Dr. Qubaty changed after he moved from the post of a political in Yemen to an ambassador abroad?
A: I am still the same man when it comes to family. But I am now away from the headaches of political maneuvers and tactics. But again, I have been posted in a country which doesn't lack political activity. On the contrary, Lebanon is a country where three continents are meeting and so do religions and political affiliations, etc. But as a family man, I still am the same. I have my family with me here. We are satisfied with the quality of education for my kids. But I am still connected to Yemen. It may be true that I am more settled here as I was in the front line with the ruling party when I was in Yemen, but again Lebanon is a country of continuing political action. The amount of time I follow political clashes and activities is much greater when we take the regional and international dimensions into perspective. Lebanon is, as you know, a cultural and intellectual hub where free media is widely active. I am lucky to be working in Beirut, as I knew the country since I was a student in the early seventies, but things were quite different then. There is a lot to learn from Lebanon. Despite the troubles they have had, Lebanese are ingenious in facing problems with inspiring and new ideas. They have adopted multi-religious, multi-cultural diversity and were able to use this in their example by promoting tolerance and free media.
As Yemenis, we need to learn a lot indeed from Lebanon, especially as regards religious tolerance and maintaining peace.

Q: Any final words you may have?
A: I just would like to express my gratitude to Yemen Times for this interview. I respect the paper greatly and of course I admire its founder, Prof. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, who was also a personal friend of mine and an opinion leader whom we miss greatly in these times. I send my best of regards to your readers.