Political Analysis

British Embassy in Yemen to open Sunday

National Yemen

Jane Marriot Britsh Ambassador to Yemen

By NY Staff

The British Embassy in Yemen will open its doors for regular consular services starting Sunday, the British ambassador said Friday.

The British government announced Aug. 6 it pulled its diplomats out of Yemen as a security precaution. The U.S. State Department closed a number of embassies in the Middle East and North Africa because of an alleged regional threat from al-Qaida.

“There is a high threat from terrorism throughout Yemen,” last week’s warning said.

Marriot used her official Twitter account to announce she returned Thursday to the Yemeni capital.

“Looking to reopen the embassy in the next couple of days,” her message read.

The Yemeni government this week downplayed the threat level, saying its security forces were able to respond to the heightened state of alert.

The official Saba news agency reported Wednesday it had assurances from U.S. Ambassador Gerald Feierstein the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa would re-open soon.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said this week there was no schedule for the re-opening. There was no announcement Thursday from either embassy.

The Yemeni government last week said it was able to thwart al-Qaida attacks.

Jane Marriott is the new British Ambassador to Yemen.  The Ambassador has been in Sana’a for less than two weeks, but she has already made a number of discoveries about Yemen and Sana’a.  The newly arrived diplomat recently shared a list of first impressions at her new post.

At the top of the list was Yemen’s twin potential and challenge to control the future of its 24 million residents.  The National Dialogue is the current vehicle for this process, and Marriott has been impressed by “the dedication, energy…and commitment of its 565 members to make a better Yemen.”

Marriott commented on the incredible media presence working to connect the Dialogue to the common person in Yemen, and subsequently the importance of Yemen’s civilians.  “Each and every Yemeni does have a voice and needs to use it constructively,” writes Marriott.  “There are people out there who do not have Yemen’s best interests at heart.”

Marriott also noted the difficult security situation impacting the lives of many Yemenis, in particular the prevalence of bombings, shootings, and kidnappings.  However, she notes that although the political and security situation draw our attention most strongly, “it is the economy and the humanitarian situation that is the greatest issue.”  She cited the 10.5 million people in Yemen without enough to eat including 1 million malnourished children, as well as 13.1 million Yemenis without access to safe water or sanitation.  The British Embassy is actively participating in the effort to help these people; “our new DFID project will deliver food assistance to 200,000 people and safe water to 310,000.”

But these humanitarian crises reveal Yemen’s “lack of basic service provision,” which Marriott observes leads to tensions in the civilian-state relationship in Yemen.

Marriott also included some observations of a more personal nature, applauding the “great, interesting, smart people” she’s met so far in Yemen.  She was particularly struck by the “petite, feisty Yemeni women who know they can make a difference.”

Marriott commended the hardworking staff of her embassy, as well as the “delicious dates” she has tasted at a number of iftars she has attended and hosted.  She expressed approval at the San’ani weather, and described her interest in promoting projects involving Yemen’s women, youth, and water.

She closed her note with an optimistic outlook of her new position: “It’s going to be a fascinating, challenging (a word I’m already over-using) and great posting for the next couple of years.”