London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Representatives from 39 countries and organizations were welcomed in London on Thursday morning by British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, for the fifth meeting of the Friends of Yemen.
The meeting at Lancaster House in central London was co-hosted by Hague, Nizar bin Obaid Madani, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and Dr Abu-Bakr al-Qirbi, Yemen’s Foreign Minister.
Despite the serious concerns that remain about Yemen’s socio-economic and security situation, the political transition process in the Southern Gulf state has so far proved the sceptics wrong. As Hague put it in the press conference that followed the Friends of Yemen meeting, “Yemen is now half way through a peaceful transition and on the road to full elections in 2014.” “In a region that has seen so much instability and violence, I think Yemen’s progress in recent years has been remarkable”, he added.
The British Foreign Secretary confirmed the widespread support from the Friends of Yemen to the National Dialogue Conference, scheduled to kick start on March 18, involving representatives of all groups of Yemeni society, including youth, women, the Houthis, and the southern movement known as Al-Herak.
Hague stressed the importance of seeing the delivery to Yemen of the USD 7.8 billion pledged last year. Madani confirmed the Saudi financial support to Yemen. Saudi Arabia is Yemen’s largest donor in this pledge, with a commitment of USD 3 billion, 93% of which has already been delivered.
Hague emphasised the British commitment to the fight against Al-Qaeda now led by Yemen’s President Hadi and welcomed the reforms and restructuring of the Yemeni military and police forces.
He also said to “those who seek to disrupt the peaceful process underway, the international community has a clear warning: any attempt to spoil the process, to interference with elections, or undermine the national dialogue, will be met with a serious response and further measures from the United Nations, including the United Nations Security Council.”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Alaistair Burt, said “We have to be optimistic because the large number of friends of Yemen who met in London today realize the Yemenis’ urgent need to resolve their political, security, and in particular economic, dilemmas. I think it is a good thing that we have this number of countries that are willing to provide support.”
When asked about what would be the British position if, during the national dialogue conference, the Yemenis agree to return to separation between north and south, Burt observed that “This is down to the Yemenis themselves.” “They are the ones who decide what they want through the national dialogue conference. They can choose any political structure that suits them,” he added.