x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Yemen summit to roll out ideas, not cash

The United States and 20 other countries will meet in London on Wednesday to discuss the growing instability in Yemen.

SANA'A // The United States and 20 other countries will meet in London on Wednesday to discuss the growing instability in Yemen, following increasing threats by al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The meeting, which the British prime minister Gordon Brown called for, is to focus on shared analysis of the challenges faced by Yemen, including the reasons for radicalisation and instability, according to Tim Torlot, the British ambassador to Yemen. Discussions about political and economic reform in Yemen and how foreign nations can best assist the country as it faces pressure to crack down on al Qa'eda while battling armed rebellion in the north and a growing separatist movement in the south are also expected

The meeting comes in the aftermath of the Christmas Day attempt of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit, Michigan. Mr Abdulmutallab had attended Arabic language classes at a school in Sana'a and had been in contact with al Qa'eda operatives in the country. Al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for his unsuccessful attack. "We are deeply concerned about the situation - and there is real effort to mobilise the international community to help address these concerns," a western diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen specialist at Princeton University in the United States, warned that if the conference solely focuses on al Qa'eda and security issues and neglects Yemen's other challenges, it will be a failure. "Dealing with al Qa'eda in isolation from Yemen's other challenges is neither sustainable nor desirable. Instead, it is a recipe for disaster," Prof Johnsen said. "A narrow focus on counterterrorism may alleviate the problem for a short period of time, but it will do nothing to eradicate al Qa'eda within the country over the long term. Indeed, such a shortsighted approach will have exceedingly high long-term costs.

"Any Yemen strategy will require a co-ordinated effort between the US, its allies and regional partners. Success in Yemen demands a localised, nuanced and multifaceted response to the country's many problems," Prof Johnsen added. Mr Torlot said during a press conference in Sana'a on Wednesday that Yemen is facing a set of serious challenges that require sustained international support. "Our message to the conference will be presenting the economic, development and security challenges that we are facing and we need the international community to support us. I think the event is an alarm to the world that it should work with us to face these challenges," said Hisham Sharaf, Yemen's vice minister for planning and international co-operation.

The London conference will not be about making new financial pledges. Out of US$5.5 billion (Dh20bn) pledged by donors at a London conference in 2006, Yemen has managed to spend only a fraction as the ability of the government to absorb financial support properly due to inefficiency and corruption is in question. "By accepting our money, you should accept our conditions for how this money should be used," the diplomat said. "We will not tolerate the misuse of our money. This is a critical moment in our relationship with Yemen.

"It is the Yemeni government's responsibility to carry out political and economic reforms to give us the confidence to work together. Corruption is a major epidemic. "Such issues will be discussed and the government has to be prepared to answer ... It has to tell us its view of the situation and how these issues will be addressed," The Houthi insurgents, who have been fighting a sporadic war against the central government since 2004, have not commented on the conference. But The Peaceful Movement Council for South Liberation, one of the southern groups that is pushing for autonomy in the region, urged in a statement that participants in the London conference support their demands.

Mr Torlot, the British ambassador, said splitting Yemen would have catastrophic consequences. Western diplomats here, however, have said that settlement of the insurgency in the north, a battle the government has failed to win militarily, is vital to the country's future. malqadhi@thenational.ae