Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu-Bakr al-Qirbi has linked the cessation of Yemeni military operations against the Huthist insurgents northwest of the country to their response to the government’s six demands and said these groups (the Huthists) are outlaws, against the constitution, and rebelling against the ruling system. He pointed out in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat in Cairo that the military operations and conflicts in Sa’dah were prolonged by the interventions of Yemeni tribes which mediated to end the conflict and have the Huthists hand over their weapons. He also talked about the future of the situation in Yemen and the impact of this crisis on the Yemeni economy. Following is the text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] You briefed the Arab foreign ministers’ meetings several times on the confrontations in south Yemen and in Sa’dah. What is new in the Yemeni briefing this time and where the issue of resolving the conflict with the Huthists has reached?
[Al-Qirbi] The aim of the Yemeni briefing is to acquaint the brother Arab foreign ministers about the real situations in Yemen so that they do not have a wrong image from the media that is trying to falsify the facts. The media tried, very regrettably, to depict what is happening in Sa’dah as a sectarian conflict or as if the issue is one of uprooting a group holding a religious creed but it ignored the government’s efforts for a full year during which it stopped all the operations and tried through several mediations to persuade these groups to return to dialogue and avoid the violence, killings, and destruction to which the Sa’dah Governorate was subjected. The truth of the matter is that the military action now taking place on the ground was imposed on the government because the sons of Sa’dah thought the government was not exercising its constitutional right to protect them and stop this insurgency in Sa’dah. Hence there was a need for a clarification to the foreign ministers so that they understand is that these insurgent groups have capabilities and financial resources. We do not care from where these are coming, as this will be made public at the right time, but the resources available to them are clear evidence they are receiving external support.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] But President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced that the financial support and financing were from Iran and Al-Sadrists?
[Al-Qirbi] The president announced there are nongovernmental Iranian sources in the religious seminaries and Shiite groups in Iran and probably from outside it too. As to Al-Sadr, what the president said was that Al-Sadr expressed his willingness to mediate between the government and the Huthists and inferred from this that there was contact between them and the Huthists because they could not mediate if there was no relationship between them.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] But the mountains battle is difficult and, as the experts are saying, it is difficult for such battles to resolve the military war. What is the situation and what needs to be done?
[Al-Qirbi] We did not resolve the previous wars with the Huthists. There were always interventions by the sons of the region and the tribal elders due to Yemen’s tribal nature. They asked the government to stop the war and said they would intervene and ask the Huthists to hand over their weapons, end the war, and return to their villages. The government always responded to these demands because it regarded these, despite their insurgency, Yemenis in the first place and that stopping the bloodshed was the state’s responsibility. But they very regrettably reneged on their promises every time.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] In addition to the external support, who inside Yemen is supporting the Huthists in your opinion?
[Al-Qirbi] As I said, there is support from Shiite groups and probably from those who were misled inside Yemen who believe that these belong to their creed while they have deviated from Al-Zaydi creed. This to owe will make public at the right time.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you believe that the conflict in Yemen is not just sectarian but also one seeking to partition the country, or what?
[Al-Qirbi] According to these groups’ discourses, the reason for this sectarian conflict is that they are saying the current regime is not in accord with their beliefs which consider the current presidential system illegal and not in accord with their creed.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you mean that the Huthists are aspiring to rule Yemen and not just declare a state in Sa’dah?
[Al-Qirbi] Yes, that is so.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] If the conflict with the Huthists was not resolved militarily, will the dialogue committee help (solve the problem)?
[Al-Qirbi] The dialogue is halted at present. We are hoping that the military operations are a message to the others which persuades them that the government is serious this time, will not accept mediations, and they must talk to the government within the framework of the six points which the government had presented to them.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] And these are?
[Al-Qirbi] These pointes include them coming down from the mountainous areas and fortifications, handing over the heavy weapons they have, returning to their villages, stopping closing roads, removing the mines they had planted in many areas, and releasing the German and British hostages kidnapped in their areas several months ago. These are the points presented by the government.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are the military operations with the Huthists expected to end soon?
[Al-Qirbi] We did not seek the war which we have repeatedly said was imposed on the government. It is a war against its sons which it does not want. It is a drain on the country’s economy which affects everyone, including the Huthists and all Yemen’s sons. But when the insurgent does not listen to the voice of reason and continues the sabotage and destruction, harms the citizens, and prevents the state’s institutions from functioning, then the state has to intervene. There is no country that accepts such actions.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you believe that the proliferation of weapons phenomenon in Yemen helped the infighting?
[Al-Qirbi] Of course. The presence of weapons is contributing to this.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] You are rejecting the internationalization or arabization of Yemen’s issue. But there is American, Arab, and regional talk about backing stability in Yemen. How do you see it and is this not the onset of intervention?
[Al-Qirbi] Yemen is an important country regionally and its stability is important for the region. But we do actually reject the internationalization and arabization. It is an internal issue. All the stands are not considered intervention as much as concern for Yemen’s stability and unity. This is what the Arab group, the EU, and the United States expressed.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is the minimum level for external intervention in resolving the Huthists’ issue? Will you accept a Turkish mediation after it offered to do so during its participation in the Arab foreign ministers’ meetings? What is the kind of support apart from internationalization and arabization?
[Al-Qirbi] It is to support the Yemeni Government in the confrontation with these elements. The most important kind of support is not to deal with these insurgent elements as if they are the government’s equal because they have broken the law and constitution. They should be seen within this context.