Taiz, Asharq Al-Awsat- Yemeni Prime Minister Ali Muhammad Mujawwar has emphasized the importance of the proposal for dialogue which President Ali Abdullah Saleh put forward to all political forces for agreement on a comprehensive reform program to boost economic development and stability in Yemen. In an interview with Asharq al-Awsat in Taiz, he said that the Southern Mobility Movement [SMM] represents merely biased voices who will not succeed in harming Yemen’s unity. He said that Aden, which is located in the southern part of the country, has benefited from unity in terms of economic development 10 times more than it did before the unification. He stressed the importance of settling the file of the Huthist (rebels), noting that the reports prepared by the committees entrusted with implementing the six points [of the cease-fire agreement] indicate that the Huthists are stalling over delivering the maps of the minefields and over reopening roads. He praised Saudi Arabia’s role in backing Yemen’s unity and stability. He also spoke of Yemen’s efforts to curtail the Al-Qaeda organization’s activities through preemptive strikes.
The following full text of the interview follows:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How would you explain the active demonstrations that take place in the southern part of the country? Will they affect instability? Will we see an end to the tension and conflicts that threaten Yemen’s unity?
[Mujawwar] Yemen is pulsating with unity. Today, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of unity in Taiz Governorate, a place that has a noble history of support for unity. As we celebrate the unity anniversary today, we emphasize that unity is in good shape and that the situation is stable. All that is happening is merely isolated voices that have nothing to do with Yemeni society. Those people will continue to raise their voices, but they will not dissuade our people from defending their unity and sovereignty, because the masses realize that Yemen has become bigger through unity and has now occupied a place among the world’s nations and peoples. Yemen has also made major strides in various fields of economic development, thanks to its unity which Yemen will defend.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] In his speech marking the unity anniversary, President Ali Abdullah Saleh put forward three proposals revolving around initiating a dialogue, forming a national unity government, and completing the economic development projects; has the government made preparations to implement these proposals?
[Mujawwar] President Saleh’s speech is clear in terms of the important messages it sends, which focuses on explaining numerous stances, notably his adherence to dialogue and his constant call for a comprehensive dialogue, because Yemen’s unity, stability, and security concern all parties to political action, not only the (ruling) General People’s Congress. President Saleh’s call means that there is a need for the agreement of all political forces on the importance of Yemen’s unity first and foremost, and for activating the agenda of the dialogue aimed at reforming the political and electoral systems. Yemen’s national constants will be high on the list of the agenda of reform and boosting development programs. When the dialogue ends, a joint national unity government can be formed even though the majority of seats in the parliament are occupied by the General People’s Congress. Despite this, President Saleh realizes the importance of participation and partnership in running the country’s affairs. President Saleh stressed that dialogue with all parties to political action can lead to formation of a national unity government composed of the various parties taking part in the dialogue.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you except the dialogue to take place soon, particularly because same are talking of the possibility of formation of a new government in Yemen?
[Mujawwar] We are awaiting response to President Saleh’s call for dialogue and its substance. I hope that all political parties in the Yemeni arena positively respond to President Saleh’s call so that we can start a serious dialogue in the interest of the homeland.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] It is noticed that the issue of dialogue is occasionally raised, in the sense that it begins and then stops without any result. Who impedes the start of the dialogue?
[Mujawwar] The call for dialogue was made two years ago, but it has not started yet. So we demand positive response to President Saleh’s call. The parties to political action have indeed signed the agreement on February 2009 in order to start a real and serious dialogue. Up to this day, however, we have received no response to this call.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] I mean dialogue with the SMM parties themselves and with all of the extremist forces in the Sadah area and elsewhere?
[Mujawwar] By dialogue, I mean the parties to the political action that are prepared for dialogue. I am not talking of parties to political action that are not involved in the political process, but the forces that are active within the framework of the political process and that are represented in the parliament.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some expect the Huthists to resume their activities (rebellion) against the authorities. So the current phase for the Huthists is like the calm that precedes the storm; what do you think?
[Mujawwar] God only knows. Yet, efforts are under way to implement the six points (outlined in the cease-fire agreement reached early this year). The committees composed of members of the Consultative Council and of various figures continue working toward implementation of these points. We occasionally examine the latest reports of their work which confirm that the Huthists are largely stalling over implementation of these points. They have not handed over the maps of the minefields and their locations, and have also failed to reopen roads, and so on and so forth. Still, we hope that the [peace] process will continue and that we will be able to finally close this file. As President Saleh stressed, we do not want to see more Yemeni bloodshed.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What of the Gulf States’ support for Yemen’s unity and stability?
[Mujawwar] Saudi Arabia is making great efforts in support of Yemen’s unity and stability, so are the other Gulf States. The most important thing for us is their emphasis on Yemen’s unity. We sense that the role played by the Gulf Cooperation Council States, foremost of which is Saudi Arabia, is very great, particularly their support for Yemen’s development efforts. These countries have contributed to numerous development projects in Yemen.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What of Al-Qaeda organization’s challenge in Yemen?
[Mujawwar] Al-Qaeda exists in Yemen, and we are the primary target harmed by Al-Qaeda in terms of security, economy, and acts of terror. Yet, foreign media outlets exaggerate Al-Qaeda’s role in Yemen to the extent that they describe our country as a safe haven for terrorism. This is absolutely rejected and unacceptable. Al-Qaeda’s presence in Yemen is supposed to be weighed against the number of attacks it carries out. As a matter of fact, Al-Qaeda sometimes carries out far more attacks in the industrial countries than it does in Yemen. We are in control of the Al-Qaeda attacks, which it sometimes carries out, capitalizing on its presence in desolate, remote areas. The Yemeni government has carried out qualitative operations against Al-Qaeda and made big achievements in this respect, which the international community praised before the London conference (in support of Yemen held early this year.) was convened. The international community has testified that Yemen has carried out preemptive strikes against Al-Qaeda, largely subduing its activities.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did Aden celebrate the unity anniversary?
[Mujawwar] Aden celebrated the unity anniversary as did all Yemeni cities. Every five years we choose one of the governorates to hold the unity anniversary celebration. In past years, we celebrated the anniversary in Al-Mukalla and Al-Hudaydah, and earlier in Aden and Sanaa. These celebrations are held within the framework of manifestations of interest in and concern for unity in all Yemeni governorates.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is the Yemeni government’s gift to Aden on the occasion of commemorating the unity anniversary?
[Mujawwar] Aden has changed; it has witnessed unprecedented development, thanks to unity. Over the past two decades, the growth rate in Aden was 10 times more than it was before unity.