Yemen government denies plan to hand ports to Turkey

Recent comments by the transport minister suggested Ankara would be handed management of transport infrastructure

FILE PHOTO: A worker walks past a ship unloading grain at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen, January 5, 2019. Picture taken January 5, 2019. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad/File Photo
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Yemen's government is not planning to sign deals for Turkey to run ports and transport infrastructure in the country, sources told The National after Transport Minister Saleh Al Jabwani sparked controversy with remarks during a visit to Istanbul.

During the visit on December 29, Mr Al Jabwani said he had reached an agreement with his Turkish counterpart to form joint committee to develop transport infrastructure in Yemen.

But a source in the government confirmed that no such plan is in place after the government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi issued a statement saying that comments about management of transport infrastructure represented the personal view of the people involved and not the official Yemeni position. The statement did not name Mr Al Jabwani.

“The circulated remarks about arrangements related to seaports and airports do not represent the government, and some officials’ visits to friendly countries are personal,” the statement run in the state-run Saba news agency said.

A government official in Aden told The National that the remarks made by the transport minister reflect a faction within the government who oppose a recent deal signed in Riyadh on power sharing with the Southern Transitional Council.

The deal, singed in the Saudi capital on November 5, ended clashes and a standoff in Aden between government forces and STC fighters who took over parts of the city.

“Those people felt that the agreement would strip them of their power and would lead to forming a new government without them,” the source said. “So they kept struggling to make such eye-catching propaganda through personal visits to some countries such as Turkey and Oman to send a message saying ‘we are still here’.”

The official pointed out that only President Hadi has the authority to sign off on international co-operation agreements and is the one who decides the direction of foreign policy. The president, the source said, did not support the minister’s comments.

Separately, Ahmed Obeid Bin Dagher, an adviser to Mr Hadi, said progress has been made on appointing a new governor of Aden and head of security in line with the terms of the Riyadh agreement, Saba reported.

Mr Bin Dagher said the full terms of the deal have to be implemented to end the conflict in Aden and surrounding provinces and to re-establish the joint effort to end the Houthi rebellion in the country’s north.