With the ending of talks, peace in Yemen remains elusive. During his visit to Abu Dhabi this week to meet UAE leaders, Dr Ahmed bin Daghar, Yemen’s prime minister, gave an interview to The National’s sister paper, Alettihad. Ali Alamodi reports.
q How do you view the UAE’s support in restoring Yemen’s legitimate government in Yemen?
a First, I would like to extend my gratitude to the UAE leadership and all the rulers of the emirates for standing firm with our country in light of recent circumstances. Thanks to the contribution of the Saudi-led Arab Coalition with the active participation of the UAE, we have been able to support and restore the legitimate government in Yemen.
The UAE has played a great positive role, standing alongside Yemen and the Arab family. This is not new to the UAE. It is an extension of a culture instilled by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan and followed by his people .... which history will celebrate because it is an assurance that our countries stand shoulder to shoulder in fighting the coup against the legitimate government and in protecting the stability of Yemen and the entire region. We will forever remember the great sacrifices as well as the political, humanitarian and economic support offered to us by the UAE.
The Yemen talks in Kuwait have failed. Now what?
The negotiations in Kuwait were essential .... because they were desired by all. There is no constant war, but rather a constant search for continuing peace and stability, which is so important for our country and for others. Even before Operation Decisive Storm [the coalition’s military intervention in Yemen], president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi assured everyone that we want peace, hence our participation in the Geneva I, Geneva II and Kuwait talks. The negotiations lasted more than 90 days and were conducted in phases. The legitimate government delegation headed by deputy prime minister and foreign minister Abdulmalik Al Mekhlafi tried to reflect the government’s general policy towards a comprehensive and fair peace. Unfortunately, the other party representing the Houthis and the ousted president Saleh were not serious about seeking peace and did not keep any of the promises they have been making since 2004.
The UN has made great efforts and we appreciate the positive role of its special envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who has conducted lengthy negotiations and travelled back and forth to Sanaa and other Arab capitals in a bid to reach a settlement. We believe he cannot expect any agreement to be enacted at a stroke. However, one could be achieved in stages, so I disagree with those who assess his role differently. We are ready to take part in any coming negotiations based on International Resolution No. 2216, which is for the legitimate government to be recognised as such and for the rebels to withdraw from the cities, relinquish their claim to authority, give up their weapons and normalise the situation.
Events have shown that the other party is not serious about seeking a political settlement. How can a solution be reached?
The international community is acting under Chapter 7 and as such, it should have compelled the parties to enact Resolution 2216 or else it should have dealt with them under said chapter. However, there are many distractions taking the world’s attention away from the Yemen issue, such as events in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. It seems that peace in Yemen and in this region is not among the priorities for the great powers.
For our part, we will continue supporting our brothers in the Arab Coalition to restore the legitimate government and defeat the rebels. The battle still has a long way to go and we are eager to achieve a ceasefire and put an end to the bloodshed and destruction. There is not one Yemeni out there who wants this war to continue, but the other party is adamant about taking over power.
Despite the government’s return to Aden, the situation and services continue to deteriorate. How are you overcoming such challenges?
We have discharged our responsibilities from Aden despite the great challenges, especially at the military level with the ongoing battles and the progress of the legitimate armed forces. With the support of our brothers, we have been able to improve some services. The UAE in particular is playing a key role in improving people’s conditions, rehabilitating schools and hospitals and reactivating the economy.
The legitimate government forces, with the support of the Arab Coalition, are waging a war against the rebels and the terrorists of Al Qaeda and ISIL. How are these operations being conducted?
Terrorism is one of the biggest calamities to befall Yemen. But what everyone needs to know is that terrorism and its standard-bearers are connected to the rebels and to the ousted president Saleh. Case in point: while Al Qaeda was in control of Al Makla region, weapons were getting through the port there and reaching the Houthis and Saleh’s militias. This shows they are in cahoots against the Yemeni people and government. Thus eliminating the rebellion contributes to suppressing terrorism. The battle continues and time will prove my words and also show that Yemen will not offer a safe haven to terrorism and terrorists.
There are hundreds of injured as well as civilians stuck in other countries. How is the Yemeni government handling this issue?
We continue to coordinate and work on alleviating their suffering and are very thankful for the great role played in this endeavour by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre.
We also thank the UAE for its key role and humanitarian initiatives in undertaking to treat 1,000 injured Yemenis both inside and outside the country. Moreover, the UAE has helped to refurbish and improve many hospitals in Aden. A number of the injured have had treatment in Jordan, Egypt and India before returning to Yemen.
We continue to work on this issue with the support of our brothers in the Arab Coalition. We have also put in place a number of programmes to help the families of the martyrs and alleviate their sufferings.
You have been quoted as saying that the unity of 1990 has ended. How do you see the future union?
Briefly, the union back then was about the constitution of an integrated and centralised state with all political, economic and social power focused in Sanaa. Meanwhile, other regions were deprived, so they were not inclined to accept such a union in 1994, in 2011 or in 2013. Here we are talking about the outcome of a national dialogue that has put in place the foundations for a new model, a decentralised federation that ensures a fair distribution among the Yemeni provinces as well as justice, equality and respect for all. So this new vision has indeed put an end to the union of 1990 and it has come about because of the Yemeni talks and the support of all those that have Yemen’s best interests at heart.