[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your assessment of the NAM and how do you see its role in future?
[Al-Qirbi] The Sharm el-Sheikh summit was an attempt to revive the movement and place it on a new road so as to play a role far removed from the former polar conflicts and so that it can move in the direction that makes this group capable of having influence not only politically but also in the economic issues that are dominating the situations of many of this group’s members and which include countries that are considered the poorest in the world.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] But the movement did not have any role in the recent past. What are the causes of its weakness?
[Al-Qirbi] The movement acted at first in the fields of national liberation and getting rid of imperialism and therefore its role was strong and prominent at that time. With the achievement of independence for many countries in the movement, some probably felt that this main role had ended and no new direction was formulated during the past years. Today, we are trying to make this movement a mechanism for strengthening relations, not only between its countries but also between them and the major economic ones, such as the United States, the European ones, and some Asian countries like Japan and others. These countries are trying to restore the movement’s role economically, especially after the financial and economic crisis to which the world was exposed. It affected the rich countries, so what about the poor ones then?
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Can the Sharm el-Sheikh summit’s final document be implemented, especially the reform of the United Nations [UN], disarmament, dealing with the consequences of the economic crisis, and so on?
[Al-Qirbi] There is not a mechanism for implementing what the movement recommended at the summit and this is why President Ali Abdullah Saleh proposed the idea of forming a secretariat general and a secretariat for the movement. I believe the foreign ministers will discuss this idea. Egypt is the chairman now and we hope it will look at this aspect as we need this mechanism for implementing the resolutions and finding the coordination mechanisms.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about establishing a security and peace council for the movement, the Libyan leader Muammar al- Gaddafi’s motion?
[Al-Qirbi] The Libyan leader’s motion is an existing idea. It is the summit chairmanship’s responsibility to crystallize these ideas and present them to the movement’s next ministerial meeting.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The Sharm el-Sheikh summit adopted an action plan. How do you see it?
[Al-Qirbi] The action plan is a timed program interested in specific issues and aims. The Egyptian chairmanship has to follow up this plan and this depends on the extent of the member countries’ cooperation in implementing it. Several ideas for activating NAM’s role might be presented in future.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are the specific issues that the action plan is interested in?
[Al-Qirbi] It is interested in the economic and financial aspect, the Palestine cause, the UN Security Council’s expansion, and reform of the UN in general. These are the three main issues. If Egypt succeeds in achieving them, then that will be an incentive for implementing the remaining resolutions, especially as the list is long and includes several issues that are of interest to the member countries.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are the latest developments in Yemen’s situations? Have they abated or are they escalating?
[Al-Qirbi] There are regrettably groups which reject the dialogue and have pursued a terrorist course in the past days. My personal view is that this will signal the end of such elements because the Yemeni people might accept the expression of opinion and demonstrations within the framework of Yemeni law and constitution but they, from north to south, certainly reject violence and the propagation of sectarian, parochial, or doctrinal hatred between the citizens. The government is dealing with all these things from their legal and constitutional aspect and will not be lax. In the past, the political parties asked us to pardon these elements and give them the opportunity to exercise their democratic role in a peaceful and legal way. But with this deviation now to their terrorist activity, the government will have no choice but to take measures against these elements.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you talking about the groups that the president pardoned after the secession war?
[Al-Qirbi] There are two groups. The first prepared the secession operation and left Yemen. A pardon was issued for its members. Some of them returned to Yemen and took up their normal lives. Some benefited from the pardon and are exercising sabotage even though they were pardoned. It is an act of brinkmanship by those who lost the war in 1994 and suffered defeat in the decision to secede. This group most certainly has interests, wants to retrieve power in any way, and is seeking secession. But the majority of the Yemeni people reject this because they know the destructive effects of secession and the situations it entails.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some are saying and claiming, especially during the past weeks, that Yemen is on the verge of secession and that the government has lost control?
[Al-Qirbi] These propagations that are published by some newspapers are not based on facts or on what is happening on the ground or even on what the Yemenis are expressing. Even those newspapers associated with the opposition want the political and economic situations to be dealt with only under the umbrella of unity and therefore those propagating secession do not have a program or even a future vision and but act on the basis of the failure they suffered in 1994.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The players in Yemen are varied. There are the planners of terrorist and sabotage operations, those belonging to Al-Qaeda, then the Huthist elements, and last the secessionist groups. How are you dealing with all of these?
[Al-Qirbi] We deal with those who were arrested in terrorist incidents or were planning terrorist actions from Al-Qaeda organization through dialogue and by trying to distance them from the road of violence, extremism, and terrorism or by referring them to the courts to receive the punishment they deserve for the crimes they had committed. The problem with Al-Qaeda’s is that it is trying to get involved with the secessionist groups and the Huthists so as to spread chaos. But Al-Qaeda elements are not a big number in the problem as the Western research centers are depicting and which are saying that Al-Qaeda has moved from Iraq and Afghanistan to Yemen. The fact is that this is exaggerated.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] At the Arab level, do you see any opportunities for solving the Palestinian issue?
[Al-Qirbi] If we look at the Arab-Israeli conflict from the viewpoint of Tel Aviv, we see stands that are not serious or even desiring to achieve peace. Netanyahu’s recent speech included conditions, as if he wanted to say through them: If you want peace then that will be only according to the Israeli vision. This means there will not be a fair and comprehensive peace and a viable Palestinian state will not be established. If we look at it from the US and European stands, we see there is progress, especially in their frank call to Israel to stop the settlement activities, return to the peace talks, comply with the roadmap, and consider the Arab peace initiative the basis for the final solution. If we look at it from the Palestinian perspective, we unfortunately see a very dangerous situation in view of the current disagreements and which are weakening their negotiating positions with Israel. Hence the unity of Palestinian ranks is necessary for persuading the United States and Europe that the Palestinian side is capable of entering into difficult and complicated negotiations.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] But US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded from the Arabs to take steps and she was hinting again at normalization with Israel?
[Al-Qirbi] This is the result of the Israeli pressures on the United States now and therefore it is not surprising to hear different ideas to minimize the US-Israeli disagreement. But we have to see what the results are in the end.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are the results of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s visit to Saudi Arabia?
[Al-Qirbi] Relations are excellent at all levels. There is an exchange of visits at the security level and also at the economic ones. The competent departments in both countries are working to boost the relationship.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did President Ali Abdullah Saleh meet his counterparts in Sharm el-Sheikh?
[Al-Qirbi] He met [Egyptian] President Hosni Mubarak, Libyan Leader Muammar Al-Gaddafi, Cuban President Raul Castro, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and a group of other presidents.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Were specific issues discussed or were they just courtesy meetings?
[Al-Qirbi] Some of them were courtesy meetings and the others to discuss issues related to bilateral relations and activation of bilateral cooperation.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Was a specific issue discussed with Libyan Leader Al-Gaddafi, especially the Huthists one?
[Al-Qirbi] This issue was completely over with the Libyans. Some of the issues raised by the Libyan leader at the NAM summit were discussed, such as making the region free from weapons of mass destruction, the issue of UN reform, and terrorism.