KUWAIT, Nov. 23 (Saba)- As the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference draws to a close, Asharq Al-Awsat spoke with President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi on the sidelines of the Arab–African Summit about the issues facing his country, as well as Yemen’s wider relations with the Arab and African worlds and its fight against terrorism.
In the exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, he also highlighted the longstanding relations between Egypt and Yemen, asking the Egyptians to use Yemen’s experience as an example as both countries go through a transition period.
Asharq Al-Awsat: What were the results of your meeting with Egyptian President Adly Mansour in Kuwait during the Arab–African Summit?
President Hadi: It was extremely good. Our relations with Egypt were never cut off. The Egyptian government and people have a special place among Yemenis. Egypt’s stability is our stability, so we asked President Mansour to talk to us and to learn from Yemen’s experience. The solution to any problem is discussion. We tried this method, and it proved to be the best method.
Q: Did you agree to visit each other?
President Hadi: In Yemen we have many big problems, so any visit to Cairo will only happen after the end—and, hopefully, the success of—the national dialogue.
Q: Do you see any possibility of working with Africa on issues such as immigration, counter-terrorism and blockading Al-Qaeda, whose support has spread everywhere, on the horizon?
President Hadi: A few days ago we held a conference in Yemen on immigration, its causes, and the harm it brings to recipient nations. This was attended by the GCC countries, international organizations and groups that work with immigration. The problem is that Yemen is close to the horn of Africa, and we have received hundreds of migrants from Eritrea and Somalia. We now have 1.1 million Somalis who have taken jobs that could have helped solve the problem of unemployment that Yemen suffers from.
In addition to the difficult economic situation, the summit was called in light of the complex regional and international circumstances, which have forced tough challenges on us all. We therefore have to work to organize, develop and stimulate economic growth, because most of these problems are caused by poverty, illiteracy, disease and a lack of resources. I expect this new partnership headed by Kuwait will result in a quantum leap forward in resolving problems and fruitful aid for this vitally important issue.
Q: The Kuwait announcement highlighted providing support to countries receiving migrants. Will this help to reduce the harm?
President Hadi: The UN is helping to lighten the burden on Yemen somewhat by educating these migrants in the camps they live in. But there are huge numbers of them from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan working and moving into every province of Yemen by virtue of the links between the countries on the Horn of Africa. We need help to bear these burdens. We therefore issued an announcement on November 11 that contains many recommendations on solving the problem of illegal immigration by reinforcing this matter in law with increased support for programs to return migrants and refugees to their own countries and resolve the causes of migration.
Q: What about counter-terrorism and the fight against Al-Qaeda, which has been active in Yemen during the transitional period? What support do you expect from the special summit?
President Hadi: Al-Qaeda is an international organization present in every country in the world. We suffer from the armed attacks it launches. The most recent was an attack on a security checkpoint that killed a group of security staff. It’s a constant battle to root them out, and it is a huge challenge. We call on the international community to help eradicate this dangerous scourge, which threatens the security and stability of the world. We believe that the Arab–African Summit in Kuwait ended with an important result in our work towards eliminating piracy and terrorism in all their forms and the importance of security cooperation between every Arab and African nation.
Q: What’s the answer, especially since you visited both Washington and Moscow?
President Hadi: There is a great deal of cooperation, particularly with Saudi Arabia and Europe. We have joint operations with Saudi Arabia and the US. Here I must mention the reduction in Al-Qaeda activity in Yemen compared with 2011 and 2012, when Al Qaeda occupied the Abyan province and formed their own government, thanks to the efforts of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. We launched a large security operation against them and succeeded in clearing them out and ridding Abyan of their supporters. They then fled to launch isolated attacks against Yemen from time to time.
As a result of the operation against Al-Qaeda, its members began to flee to other areas suffering upheaval such as Syria, Egypt, Libya and North Africa generally, among other places.
Q: What are the priorities of the Arab and African worlds with regards to economic growth?
President Hadi: The first is investing in infrastructure and public facilities, and there is also an interest in agriculture and food security, not to mention the link between Arab and African nations in road, electricity and communication networks to facilitate transport and investment. Other joint priorities include the funding of commercial enterprises and reducing customs restrictions, supporting the private sector, and exchanging visits between peoples and officials to enable the two regions to become better acquainted.