In September, Yemeni Foreign Minister H.E. Dr. Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak visited the Netherlands as part of a European tour aimed at relaunching diplomatic efforts to reach a political settlement in Yemen. In an interview with Diplomat Magazine, the Minister outlined his government’s view of the Yemeni conflict, expressing a wish to improve cooperation with European countries to achieve peace and security in the country. The interview has been edited for the purpose of length and clarity.
Seven years after the eruption of the war, Yemen has not yet managed to re-gain peace. Your Excellency, could you tell us your government’s perspective about Yemen’s political impasse?
Yemen is currently facing a critical situation due to the Houthi militia’s reluctance towards peace initiatives. Unfortunately, the rebellious militia obstructed – until now – all international diplomatic efforts aimed at achieving peace. It thwarted the endeavours of the former United Nations special envoy Martin Griffiths to reach a political compromise. The same was done during the tenure of his predecessor, Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh, when we were very close to a political solution after more than 100 days of negotiations in Kuwait. The government showed flexibility and made concessions to achieve the aspirations of the Yemeni people to restore security and stability. Yet, the government’s commitment towards peace and national reconciliation needs a genuine partner which is still not available.
Despite these challenges, the government will continue pursuing peace, encouraging the rebel group to come to the negotiating table and deal positively with peace initiatives based on the three references: the Gulf Initiative and its executive mechanism, the outcomes of the national conference dialogue, and the UN Security Council resolution 2216. Mr. Hans Grundberg was appointed recently to be the fourth UN special envoy to Yemen. We fully support him, and we are looking forward to working together intensively to reach a comprehensive cease fire and ending the war.
Your Excellency, what are the reasons that have underpinned the protracted conflict in Yemen? What issues lie at the core of this conflict?
The current conflict in Yemen, as well as all internal conflicts occurring in the past, has its roots in the rebel movements’ refusal of a fair and just distribution of power and wealth. In 2011, Yemen was one of the countries influenced by the Arab Spring. The Yemeni people revolted to end the unjust manipulation of power and wealth, which had led to massive corruption and had hindered the country’s development. The revolution called for justice, good governance, decentralization, integrity, transparency, and accountability. The revolution did manage to cause a political change: President Hadi was elected, a new government (including both the former regime and other political parties) was formed, and an inclusive and comprehensive national dialogue conference was launched.
Yemen’s different political and social factions, including the Houthis, participated in the national dialogue conference and addressed a wide range of issues. A new constitution was drafted and was supposed to be voted on. Yet, after being part of the national dialogue and agreeing on its outcomes, the Houthi militia – in coordination with the former regime – staged a coup d’état, thus hindering the political process, suppressing the people’s aspirations, and imposing a corrupted, racist, and totalitarian regime. These aggressive actions triggered the conflict in Yemen, which has led to the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world.
What are the main reasons due to which, seven years after the start of the war, Yemen’s conflict has not been solved yet?
There are three main reasons explaining the persistence of the conflict in Yemen. First of all, the Houthi militia’s ideology is based on the divine right to rule and on domination by force and violence. For the militia, war becomes an aim in itself – and even more so after the militia has been profiteering from the war and has established a parallel economy. Second, the Houthi militia has aligned itself with Iran and its regional agenda, which aims to undermine peace, security, and stability in the region. The militia is backed, supported, and equipped by the terrorist Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The fact that the militia’s decisions have been controlled by the Revolutionary Guards has complicated Yemen’s problems and has delayed the process of reaching a political settlement. Finally, no efficient pressure is being put to compel the Houthi militia to comply with the peace process.
Your Excellency, your visit in the Netherlands come as part of a broader European tour. What do you hope to accomplish through this raft of visits to European capitals? And are you also hoping to cooperate with countries outside of Europe?
In terms of my European tour’s aim, at the official level, I hope to resume our bilateral cooperation with the European Union, to come to a mutual understanding of the political roots of the crisis in Yemen, and to clarify the government’s views on how to resolve the conflict. At the public diplomacy level, I wish to address the public opinion in Europe through dialogues with think tanks and the national media, explaining our just cause and refuting wrong narratives about what is happening in Yemen.
As for the cooperation with countries outside of Europe, we do indeed look forward to cooperating with all countries that are seeking to help Yemen to restore peace and security in the country.
In a statement published in the EU Observer, you have been calling for a new European approach to help solving the Yemeni crisis. What kind of partnership would you want to form with the EU? And which concrete, immediate measures would you envision from the EU and other international partners?
The Yemeni government shares the EU’s same goals in Yemen, that is, restoring peace and security, improving the humanitarian situation, and stabilizing the economy. The best way to achieve these goals is to support state institutions through a full partnership with the Yemeni government. The government is ready to discuss openly with the EU all the concerns that may exist and that may prevent us from achieving such partnership.
In terms of concrete measures, we first of all ask our partners to channel all humanitarian assistance and financial flows through Yemen’s Central Bank, so as to improve the value of the Yemeni Rial and prevent a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation. Moreover, we ask them to support the Yemeni government in reaching an immediate nation-wide ceasefire, most notably by pressuring the Houthi rebels and the Iranian regime. We consider the ceasefire as the most important humanitarian measure and as the first step towards solving the country’s crisis and tackling all other humanitarian issues.
Many thank you for your time, Your Excellency, and best wishes for your European tour!