x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Yemen has firm support from Gulf, says Sheikh Abdullah

The UAE Foreign Affairs minister pledges continued backing from GCC nations in his opening remarks to a meeting of regional foreign ministers at the Emirates Palace hotel.

ABU DHABI // The UAE and its Gulf neighbours will continue to provide strong support for the Yemeni government, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, said yesterday.

"I think the GCC countries will be a fundamental pillar in supporting our friends in Yemen," said Sheikh Abdullah.

Gulf unity was a running theme in his opening remarks to a meeting of GCC foreign ministers at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi.

"We want our council to gather us [together] in our dealing with a lot of issues that threaten our world, issues that exceed in their effects the boundaries of one nation," Sheikh Abdullah said.

The meeting was a preparatory gathering ahead of the GCC summit early next month in Abu Dhabi.

Yemen has joined several GCC institutions in the past few years, and Sheikh Abdullah said this trend would continue.

"We have been for many years and decades very close allies and friends of Yemen," he said. "We are looking forward with our Saudi and Yemeni brothers in providing the best outcome of the upcoming Friends of Yemen conference that is supposed to take place in Saudi Arabia."

The Saudi meeting will include discussions on political, security and economic issues, and the Yemeni government's efforts are crucial to the success of the conference, said Sheikh Abdullah.

Yemen has previously said it might need up to US$50 billion (Dh183.6bn) of development aid to pay for things like education and the rebuilding of its infrastructure.

The country has faced mounting criticism over its handling of Al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Explosives hidden in cargo were found on flights in Dubai and London two weeks ago, bound for the US. AQAP has claimed responsibility.

In an interview with The National this week the Yemeni foreign minister, Abu Bakr al Qirbi, dismissed views that his country could become a failed state like Somalia, adding that intelligence co-operation with Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries was crucial to disrupting terrorist activity.

Sheikh Abdullah said the Gulf countries also were hopeful about the results of negotiations aimed at resolving the stand-off over Iran's nuclear programme.

Some believe Iran is aiming to develop a nuclear weapon but the Islamic Republic maintains its programme is peaceful.

Representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany are expected to meet with Iran this month.

"We are all looking forward that the meeting between the five plus one and Iran would have a solid outcome and a positive one," Sheikh Abdullah said. "So let's wait until the next meeting that's supposed to take place between the parties, and we are hopeful."

One of the topics on the GCC agenda is the Common Gulf Market, an agreement for which was signed in 2008 that ensures all Gulf citizens are treated as equals economically in all GCC states.

This would allow them to seek work or medical treatment, for instance, in any of the GCC countries, but the plan has not yet been realised.

"This is one of the issues that have become urgent and necessary," Sheikh Abdullah said. "We have to exert more effort together to remove some of the remaining holes."

Delegates discussed the Palestinian peace process and Iran's occupation of the UAE's islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb, and the GCC is expected to issue a renewed call inviting Iran to resolve the issue through direct negotiations or the International Court of Justice.

Also under discussion at the meeting was the use of peaceful nuclear power in the Gulf countries.

"The region around us is passing through sensitive and complicated political circumstances and in this reality we have to protect ourselves … through consultation and interaction, and co-ordination in positions," Sheikh Abdullah said.

kshaheen@thenational.ae