Friday, 4 March 2011

Can the Friends of Yemen meetings go ahead in the current crisis?

The political crisis poses a major difficulty for Yemen's regional and international allies. Governments at the beginning of March were preparing for a range of contingencies, including the possible departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. They want Yemen to increase its efforts on counter-terrorism but at the same time to address popular demands for political and economic reform.

In early March, Yemeni politicians had other preoccupations and these may continue for some time. Governments have been finding it difficult to arrange the next Friends of Yemen meeting scheduled for Riyadh – initially in February but now supposedly in late March – presumably because it is difficult to get the Saudis to make a decision in the absence of King Abdullah. He is now back and will be looking at the Yemeni problem but he also has to think about his internal situation (as evidenced by the major increase in salaries announced as soon as he returned) as well as the situation in Bahrain, which for Saudi Arabia is of profound importance. The process may have to be put on hold for a while.

William Hague, the British foreign secretary, made a brief visit to Yemen, just before the current political problems started. He said the UK would continue to support the Yemeni government and its people as they seek a better future, but reiterated the need for the government to focus on political reforms as well as increasing economic growth and creating jobs. He also stressed the importance of the National Dialogue in achieving broad-based political participation in upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. He emphasised the UK's determination to work with Yemen, the US and others to combat the threat posed by Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula. He stressed his backing for a united and stable Yemen, capable of combating this threat.

For more news and expert analysis about Yemen, please see Yemen Focus.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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