Sanaa, Asharq Al-Awsat- Newly – appointed Political and media adviser to Yemen’s Prime Minister, Ali al-Sarari, believes that former President Ali Abdullah Saleh should leave political life entirely and not just Yemen.
In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Sarari warned that the Gulf initiative may fail if the former president continues to interfere politically, particularly since he is immune from legal and judicial prosecution for his rule that stretched over 33 years.
The following is the full text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How serious is the discovery of the Iranian spy ring in Yemen?
[Al-Sarari] The information is still incomplete. Local public opinion needs accurate and documented information because issues pertaining to relations between states should not be treated in an informal way by releasing statements and so on. Such issues should be reviewed in full detail and documentation so that public opinion would be aware of the facts and thus support any official steps dealing with the relationship with the other state. Therefore, I believe that our present task is to address the local public opinion in a convincing and comprehensible language so it would shoulder its responsibility toward the national interest and political affairs.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There are reports that former President Ali Abdullah Saleh is in contact with Huthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Huthi. What are your thoughts on that?
[Al-Sarari] In general, I believe that people should carefully and cautiously review anything that Ali Abdullah Saleh does. In his present status, the man is trying to shuffle the cards and push matters toward more divisions and internal disputes because only this serves his interests. He thinks that he is taking his revenge from the various forces of the country by encouraging internal divisions and disputes.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] But what about his dealings with Huthi leaders?
[Al-Sarari] It would be unnatural and illogical to acquit Ali Abdullah Saleh of the wars that raged in Sa’dah. This conduct is not something new to him. He is trying to dissociate himself from responsibility for all the wars that he waged during his period of rule of the country. He should not be permitted this kind of denial. He cannot under any circumstances distort the facts, relinquish responsibility, and blame it on other parties. He is the one responsible under all circumstances and he did not offer solutions to the problems of the country during his rule. His only solution was war. I do not think that he can deny responsibility for the war crimes that were committed during his rule. At this stage, the sound position to be taken is to consider Yemen’s need for stability and dialogue with the participation of the various political and social forces. It is such kind of a dialogue that would help the country emerge from its crisis and make a better and guaranteed future. The Yemenis have tried many internal conflicts and Yemen was the scene of many wars but the only fruit that it reaped was weakness and this miserable state that the country has reached in all its affairs. That is why I say that the Yemenis should turn to co-existence, reconciliation, and responsible dialogue that does not distance anyone or exclude anyone. Everybody should actively participate in such a dialogue during which ideas are made and proposed on the various developments in order to reach formulas on which everyone agrees for the interests and future of the country.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There’s been breakthrough in Yemen in the light of the Gulf initiative, but what are your objections to Saleh or his behaviour?
[Al-Sarari] The main observation about this man and the circle that surrounds him is that they are trying to obstruct the implementation of the Gulf initiative and disrupt the political process based on reconciliation and the Gulf initiative and its implementation mechanism. The country’s principal mission now is to move forward in the implementation of the initiative and completing the power transfer. What has happened so far is that the power in Yemen has received a new legitimacy with a new president. However, the mechanisms of power are still distant from operating based on this new legitimacy and genuine powers exercised by the new leadership. Therefore, the main task is to continue the implementation of the initiative and complete the transfer of power. What is particularly needed is to enable the new president and the national reconciliation government to control the various tools of power. It is unacceptable to have two power centers or two leaders.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Saleh continues to wield power in the army through his son in the Republican Guard and the rest of his relatives. Can the initiative be implemented in light of the current situation?
[Al-Sarari] It is not the intention or purpose of the Gulf initiative to perpetuate or keep the current situation. The implementation mechanism of the initiative is totally interested in transferring complete power and unifying the armed forces and the security organs under one command, that of the president (the commander in chief of the armed forces) and the defense ministry and interior ministry. If this is not achieved, the entire political process will be fraught with dangers and subject to cessation. It can be said that if the armed forces and security organs are not united and restructured, the Gulf initiative as well as the political process and that all that happened is no more than nominal measures that do not enable the country to emerge from its dilemma.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Does former president Selah’s departure from Yemen represent an outlet?
[Al-Sarari] I think so; but in addition to leaving the country, he should leave political life. This man was granted immunity. He can reward this immunity by stopping completely from practicing political action because he cannot be given immunity and continue at the same time to make decisions and direct policies. Because he has obtained immunity from committing crimes against this country and for this immunity to be normal, Saleh should stop practicing politics because the one that practices politics should be accountable.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Has a date and venue been set for the comprehensive national dialogue stipulated in the initiative? Is it likely to be held outside of Yemen?
[Al-Sarari] Up till this moment, no definite decisions have been made about the venue of the dialogue conference. Many suggestions are being made and some propose that it be held outside the country. However, I believe that the majority of the forces that are invited to the dialogue agree on holding the conference inside the country. I believe this is the natural thing to do, particularly since the new situation that emerged in the country after the Gulf initiative has enabled anyone to attend (to return) and to practice political action in a normal atmosphere.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The political climate has almost stabilized, while the security situation is in a state of lawlessness. How can it be fixed?
[Al-Sarari] Under no circumstances should we allow the current security lawlessness to act as an obstacle to security, stability, and the march toward achieving the political requirements, particularly the requirement for national dialogue. I think that the security challenge is big. Everyone should participate in creating true bases for security and stability. For this to happen, I believe that we should expedite specific measures to end the family’s hegemony over the armed forces and security organs. Such tools should be placed under the command and disposal of the new authority and the new legitimacy. Ali Abdullah Selah’s ploys should stop because they lead to such security disturbances. If they continue, the political settlement will inevitably fail.