OP-ED

Open skies agreement opens new horizons for drones

National Yemen

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By: Asma Al-Mohattwari

After almost two months of the latest drone’s strikes in Yemen, America is back to send another drones to Yemen. At least five people were killed in two drone strikes in south Yemen on the last week under the excuse of fighting against al Qaeda.

In 2012 more than 30 air strikes implemented in different places of Yemen which caused the death of 180 terrorists and 15 civilians.

Despite the growing of the U.S drones in Yemen, Yemeni government signed the Initial agreement with the U.S.A. on Open skies. The agreement will allow the States to act more freely in the Yemen skies, both in the commercial area as the military one.

Open skies is an international policy concept that calls for the liberalization of the rules and regulations of the international aviation industry, especially commercial aviation, in order to create a free-market environment for the airline industry.

Currently the global aviation market is subject to positive changes. The most notably is the growing acceptance of the open skies policy, a possible future solution to the development of the aviation.

The United States has achieved Open Skies with over 100 partners from every region of the world and at every level of economic development.  In addition to bilateral Open Skies agreements, the United States has negotiated two multilateral Open Skies accords:  (1) the 2001 Multilateral Agreement on the Liberalization of International Air Transportation (MALIAT) with New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, and Chile, later joined by Samoa, Tonga, and Mongolia; and (2) the 2007 Air Transport Agreement with the European Community and its 27 Member States.

Lastly, on Wednesday 12th, delegations representing the United States and the Republic of Yemen initialed the text of a U.S.-Yemen Open Skies Agreement. The Agreement, which will be applied on the basis of comity and reciprocity pending entry into force, will liberalize the bilateral aviation relationship.

The open skies agreement is expected to provide the countries with security and safety benefits, facilitating the potential for expansion of air service while continuing to safeguard aviation safety and security. As with all such agreements, several steps must be taken before foreign carriers may commence service from their home country to the United States.

These steps include obtaining (from the Department of Transportation) economic authority to operate in the U.S.; the Federal Aviation Administration issuing a favorable assessment of the host country’s civil aviation authority safety oversight practices; and, timely carrier notification to the Transportation Security Administration about the new service and verification by the TSA that the carrier has adopted and implemented a TSA-accepted security program for all operations landing and taking off in the United States.

Mansour Al-Samadi, Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Liberal Party of Yemen, expressed his pleasure at signing this agreement, which represents a major gain for Yemen and the beginning of a new phase to remove concerns held by international airlines that Yemen is an unsafe country.

In addition to the security and safety benefits, the agreement is believed to have huge economic benefits. Open Skies agreements eliminate government interference in the commercial decisions of air carriers about routes, capacity, and pricing, freeing carriers in an effort to provide more affordable, convenient, and efficient air service for consumers.

Open Skies agreements provide maximum operational flexibility for airline alliances.

Regarding economic benefits, Mr. Al-Samadi said the agreement would come with great benefits for the Yemeni and American consumers, who could access tickets at a lower cost and faster services in the field of civil aviation, as well as the expansion of air transport services.

“The agreement would open the way for more flights and more communication between the Yemeni and U.S., also it will enhance the economic and tourism ties between the two countries, where it undoubtedly will provide greater opportunities for cooperation in the field of tourism, marketing and trade,” Al-Samadi added.

Although there are people who welcomed and accepted the agreement, but still some refuse it and consider it an infringement of the Yemeni people’s sovereignty. Unlike Al-Samadi, Yahiya Al-Mattry, Director of the Kaizen Youth Initiative for Human Development, is against the agreement.

Al-Mattry  consider this agreement to be a violation of Yemen’s sovereignty and fully rejects it, calling the signatories convention to retreat from such an agreement, which increases the tension of Yemen as well as it brings doubts of the patriotism of the people who signed agreement.

“The purpose of the agreement is to achieve the U.S. objectives in Yemen and new American strikes in Yemen,” he added.

For his part, Mr. Radhwan Al-Haimi, a young leader of the Yemeni Revolution said the Open Skies agreement between the U.S. and Yemen doesn’t cause any problems. He affirmed that it could be a beneficial contract for both sides if they agreed to follow the same standards of conduct.

“Yemen will be benefiting from it in one case only: if the agreement is for the sake of Yemen’s civilians, not military, in order to allow the entrance of U.S. military airplanes into Yemeni airspace,” he added.

In response to opposition, Al-Samadi said that he stands by the open skies with the whole world because the present moment requires that.

“The world has become one village and we need to deal with developments and variables around us. The time has come to break barriers which separate us from this world; and those who refused that, they are only captives to their old ideas and concepts, and don’t care about the interests of the country and don’t realize they were originally lies,” Al-Samadi said.