By Mohammed Jumeh
London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Yemen’s ambassador to London, Abdullah al-Radi, stressed that Yemen has entered a new stage with regards to its preparations for the national dialogue conference that is set to take place in the country in the near future. Al-Radi also confirmed what other Yemeni officials have previously stated, namely that all parties are invited to take part in the conference which is set to agree on Yemen’s future political and electoral system, as well as draft a constitution for the country.
The Yemeni ambassador to Britain asserted that “preparations are underway for the national dialogue conference, which is due to be convened soon and during which the Yemenis will meet and discuss the shape of the political system they want in the future, as well as draft the constitution they want, and agree on an electoral system, and other important issues. In fact, the situation in Yemen requires effort, patience and time, particularly as Yemen today is facing grave security, economic and social challenges, and these challenges require that everybody shoulder their responsibilities in this regard.”
Al-Radi also confirmed that Yemeni President Abd-Rabbuh Mansur Hadi is enjoying broad legitimacy “or what can be called constitutional legitimacy” adding “nobody doubts the constitutional legitimacy of His Excellency the President, particularly as he is behaving wisely and with political prudence and patience, and his decisions are being implemented.” However, Al-Radi acknowledged that “some problems may occur here and there due to the political circumstance through which Yemen has passed, but dialogue is the Yemenis means of overcoming any problems and reaching agreeable solutions.”
The Yemeni ambassador also strongly denied what is being reported in the Yemeni media regarding claims that the US ambassador to Yemen is exerting control on the political process, stressing that “the US ambassador in Sanaa, like other ambassadors concerned with the situation in Yemen, is trying to find appropriate solutions in accordance with the joint interests of the two countries.” He added “as for what is being said about unacceptable interference in Yemeni affairs by the US ambassador in Sanaa…this is media talk which cannot be counted on.”
Concerning the British role in Yemen, Al-Radi told Asharq Al-Awsat “I can say that Britain has played a positive role with regards to the crisis through which the country passed last year” adding ‘we in Yemen highly appreciate this role.”
He also stressed that “one more than one occasion, the British have been clear in their stance toward the unity and sovereignty of Yemen and its security and stability. The British role in supporting Yemen economically during the crisis should also be noted since their support focused on the humanitarian aspect, whilst Britain is also playing an important role within the Friends of Yemen group in stimulating the Yemeni economy.”
Although al-Radi denied the existence of any real concerns over Yemeni unity, he acknowledged that “there are problems, and there are certain circumstances that concern the southern and eastern governorates, however there is a consensus regarding the need to deal with these circumstances during the national dialogue conference, and I am certain that the demands of our brothers in the southern governorates will be prioritized during the dialogue” adding “once these issues are dealt with, unity will not be in danger.”
Commenting on the war on Al Qaeda, Al-Radi told Asharq Al-Awsat “the reality of the situation is that the Al Qaeda organization has spread throughout Yemen particularly in the latest period, exploiting many factors, most significantly the security vacuum that was present over the past months due to the crisis the country witnessed. However, we in Yemen have gone a long way in dealing with this disease which has recently been plaguing us.”
Al-Radi stressed that Al Qaeda “has suffered successive defeats in Lawdar and the surrounding area”. However he conceded that “in my opinion, the security solution will not be enough [to stamp out terrorism]” stressing that “poverty has served as the most suitable breeding ground for extremist elements anywhere.”
The Yemeni ambassador to Britain also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the brothers in the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] states, particularly Saudi Arabia, have played a distinguished role in supporting Yemen over the past years, and we call on them to continue this role because Yemen is an inseparable part of the region, and its security and stability are important for the security and stability of the Gulf states and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Al-Radi also called for “dialogue with members of extremist organizations whose hands have not been stained with blood, which is something important in order to convince them to relinquish their ideas”, stressing this is an important factor in confronting extremism. He also called for “activating the role of the mosques in confronting extremism because the mosque is one of the strongest establishments that can confront extremism. Furthermore, we must pay attention to the conditions in the tribal areas and try to merge tribal society with civil society in order to deprive Al Qaeda from some means of support that are provided to its members in some areas of the country, in accordance with the tribal traditions.”
On Britain’s decision to ban Yemenia Airways flights to London, and the difficulties this causes to the members of the Yemeni community in Britain, he said that “we hope that our friends in Britain understand the urgent need for Yemenia Airways to resume its flights to London due to the large size of the Yemeni community in Britain,” particularly as “Yemenia continues to fly to Paris, Rome, and Germany”.
As for the fees that British nationals must pay for entry visas to Yemen, Al-Radi said: “I want to reassure the members of the Yemeni community in Britain who have British passports…that the Yemeni embassy will grant them free visas to enter the country on their British passports because they are Yemeni citizens, and they should not pay fees for this visa, and this is the case even if they travel using their British passports. As for anyone who travels using the Yemeni passport, they – of course – do not need a visa [to enter Yemen].”
He stressed that Yemenis who hold the British nationality should keep their Yemeni passports or national identity cards, in this regard, adding that “this is a decision from the Yemeni Government, and nobody can claim that are being granted a favour.”