Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Special Adviser to UN Secretary-General on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, briefed the Security Council on Thursday on the latest developments and progress in the political transition process in Yemen.
During the closed session, Benomar reportedly informed the UN Security Council that the political transition in the country “remains on track and is making progress,” in addition to discussing the security and economic challenges Sana’a is facing.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Benomar spoke about Yemen’s political transition, the threat represented by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and the forthcoming Friends of Yemen meeting in London on April 29.
Asharq Al-Awsat: You have recently been shuttling between Sana’a and Riyadh, where you have been meeting with Saudi officials. Can you tell us the nature of these visits?
Jamal Benomar: My recent visit to Saudi Arabia comes within the framework of discussions held with several countries credited with launching the Gulf Initiative [which secured a political transition in Yemen in 2011]. We should not forget that peaceful transformation and transition took place thanks to the Gulf Initiative and that Saudi Arabia and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud played a key and pivotal role in securing the success of the Yemeni political process.
During my visit to the Kingdom I met with deputy Crown Prince Muqrin Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and Interior Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Naif. We discussed several issues relating to the progress achieved so far in the Yemeni political process and the challenges facing the country. In addition, we discussed cooperation between the United Nations, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Yemen. The UN appreciates the [GCC’s] role.
Q: Yemen is seeking the help of international donors in order to overcome the crisis. What role have you played in this regard?
Regarding the Friends of Yemen group, Saudi Arabia will co-chair the next meeting, along with Britain and the Yemeni government. As you know, the Friends of Yemen group was first launched in Riyadh, and the Kingdom has been one of the largest donors and the first country to have demonstrated commitment to its pledges.
The next meeting will be held in London on April 29 and there is willingness to hold another high-level conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting next September in New York. The process of supporting Yemen is underway and there is serious work being done to secure the necessary support.
Following the successful conclusion of the National Dialogue Conference and the progress of the political process in Yemen, we are now facing increasing calls for reform. This requires a significant support from all donor countries.
Q: Have you faced any obstacles during your recent meetings with the various political players?
My latest report to the UN included an assessment of the progress achieved by the political process and how much has been implemented of the remaining tasks of the power-transfer agreement, in addition to the extent of the cooperation among the political players to implement all the UN Security Council’s resolutions. The UN Security Council acknowledges that Yemen is facing a big challenge, but by authorizing sanctions against those who obstruct the political transition it is also sending the message that it will not allow obstructers to undermine this great achievement [the success of the National Dialogue Conference] brought about thanks to the efforts of the Yemeni people and the support of the GCC.
Q: What is your view of the security situation in Yemen, given the ongoing violence and assassinations that have so far targeted over 400 intelligence officers? Can the UN play a specific role in protecting civilians’ lives in Yemen?
Yemen is facing major security challenges and we are anxiously monitoring what is taking place in several arenas. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) still poses a major threat to Yemen, neighboring countries and the entire world. We are also anxiously following the recent assassinations [targeting security officers]. Thus the international community is showing solidarity with Yemen, which is going through a critical phase and supports the efforts of the Yemeni people to put an end to the violence and terror. But the success of the National Dialogue Conference, building a modern democratic state that accommodates everyone and is in control of all parts of Yemen, in addition to a number of political, economic and social reforms, will help reduce extremism and terror in Yemen. From what I can see, there is a public consensus in Yemen around the need for building a modern Yemeni state, laying the foundations for good governance and a new system of rule. All of that will necessarily improve people’s living conditions and address the economic situation.
Q: What role did you personally play in pushing for Yemen’s militias to lay down their arms?
In the National Dialogue Conference, the Yemeni people agreed to end the so-called armed hostilities and drive militias and gunmen out of the cities. A state of consensus has been achieved by all political sides. Therefore, the conference’s results were clear and concentrated on the need to disarm the militias and seize their medium and heavy weapons.
The UN Security Council announced its support for this in its most recent resolution on Yemen, calling for all parties to support Yemen’s efforts to confront the proliferation of weapons that is threatening security and stability in the country and the entire region. We support President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s efforts on this issue.
Q: Have you been monitoring the recent unrest that has broken out in the Sana’a and Amran governorates and elsewhere?
We have been following the recent events closely and believe that the starting point is in implementing what the Yemeni people agreed on in the National Dialogue Conference. The Yemeni people oppose the establishment of a state within a state or of parallel armies. The people of Yemen want to have a strong, modern and democratic state that operates within the framework of the rule of law and order and respect for human rights. The international community is in favor of President Hadi’s efforts to end the phenomena of Yemeni militias.
This is an abridged version of an interview originally conducted in Arabic.