National Yemen republish the interview with Ambassador Matthew H. Tueller in Al Sharq al Awsat- August 26, 2016
Secretary Kerry’s meetings in Jeddah on August 25 with the Gulf Cooperation Council, the United Kingdom and the UN Special Envoy resulted in a new way forward to a peaceful solution of the Yemeni conflict.
The purpose of the meetings was to end the violence, to end the war, and to address the deeply troubling situation in Yemen, which has now not only killed more than 6,500 people to date, but become a humanitarian crisis of enormous magnitude and a growing security threat. I might add that the United States has been the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Yemen – by far – and in Jeddah Secretary Kerry announced that we will contribute another $189 million dollars in urgently needed aid. We strongly urge other countries in and outside the region to expand their contributions as well.
The parties agreed on a simultaneous security and political track that secures the stated goals of the internationally recognized Yemeni government and the Houthis. This is a breakthrough and a chance for peace and an end to the suffering of the Yemeni people.
The approach meets the needs of both parties, including the Houthis because it provides for disarmament and withdrawal at the same time that the parties agree on a national unity government. This is a new initiative that offers a comprehensive settlement. There is no longer any reason not to stop the fighting and proceed to peace.
The details remain to be worked out by the parties through negotiations. But in broad outline the final agreement would include, in the first phase, the swift formation of a new national unity government, with power shared among the parties; the withdrawal of forces from Sana’a and other key areas; and the transfer of all heavy weapons, including ballistic missiles and launchers, from the Houthis to a third party. Neither party would have to complete any of these steps until there was a comprehensive agreement on all of them. And that agreement would be guaranteed by the international community.
Starting today, Special Envoy Ismail Ould Sheikh Ahmed will immediately begin a series of consultations with the parties to work out the final details of this approach. And if the parties engage in a legitimate process, that will enable the resumption of the ceasefire agreement that was reached on April 10th of the year.
The new element in this approach to achieving peace in Yemen is that this leaves nothing for future speculation. This initiative has a clarity to it about how confidence can be built, what the end game looks like, and how the parties can get there.
It is a very fair approach. And if the Houthi do not see the wisdom of this approach, then the international community will understand exactly what the resistance is and where it comes from and what the problem is in achieving a fair political solution in Yemen.
Q. Why does the US oppose ROYG forces liberating Sanaa?
A. There is no military solution to the Yemeni conflict. Only the kind of political settlement I outlined above, agreed to by all sides, can bring peace and stability.
Q. Why has the U.S. failed to take a firm position on the one-sided actions of the “coupists”?
A. But we have taken a clear stand. On August 20, we and our G-18 partners issued a public statement pointing out that the formation by the Houthis and Saleh supporters of the so-called Higher Political Council was one-sided and unconstitutional. We stated publicly that the action only increased suffering and made a search for peace more difficult.
Q. Some Yemenis think that the announcement of the Higher Political Committee came as a result of a green light from certain countries.
A. There was certainly no green light from the United States or our partners in the G-18 as our statement against the formation of the Higher Political Committee makes clear.
Q. To what extent should the Yemenis fear that the Russians will obstruct a military resolution to the war or an end to the coup? Do you expect Russian military interference in the war?
A. The Russian Federation is a member of the G-18, whose statements, including the one I mentioned above, support a peaceful resolution to the Yemeni conflict. We have seen no signs of Russian military intervention in Yemen.
Q. What scenario does the US envision for Yemen in light of the Houthi-Saleh rejection, and do you intend to apply real pressure?
A. We are committed to achieving a peaceful resolution to the conflict. As I mentioned, we and our G-18 partners strongly support the broad a way forward in Yemen as proposed by the UN envoy.
All sides must return to the cessation of hostilities, cease offensive military action, and return to the negotiating table. In the absence of these conditions, the people of Yemen will continue to be deprived of the stability and peace they have long deserved.
Q. To what extent are Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries justified in fearing militias armed by Iran?
A. Iran has not played a helpful role in Yemen. We are especially disturbed by the introduction of Iranian missiles into the Yemeni conflict and their positioning near the Saudi border where they threaten Yemen’s neighbor. Iran must decide whether it wants to play a constructive role towards peace and security in the region or whether it wants to continue to foment instability.
Q. What are the choices for the international community if the Houthi-Saleh forces continue to refuse to withdraw from the cities or give up the (heavy) weapons?
A. The only way to end the conflict is through negotiations that end the fighting, create a national unity government and result in the withdrawal of militias from the major cities as well as the handing over of heavy weapons. We now have a way forward as proposed by the UN Special envoy and endorsed by the Gulf Cooperation Council on August 25.
Q. The West brought about the “economic truce,” but the coupists misappropriated the Central Bank funds for the war effort. Doesn’t the ROYG have the right to control its own revenues?
A. I would refer you to the ROYG, which must make its own decisions about its management of the economy in a way that minimizes further disruption and suffering for the Yemeni people.
Q. What’s the US assessment of the war on terror in the South, and what is the US role?
A. ROYG forces have made good progress in freeing certain areas in the South from terrorists. Much work remains to be done, however, and the US continues to assist Yemeni forces in their efforts to fight the extremists and restore the peace and stability that all Yemenis deserve.
Q. Based on your intelligence information, does ISIS pose a threat to Yemen to the same degree that it does in Iraq and Syria?
A. While I can’t comment on intelligence information, we have not seen the same degree of ISIS penetration in Yemen as in Iraq or Syria. Al Qaida in the Arabian Penninsula, however, remains a threat to ordinary Yemeni citizens.
Q. The South of Yemen is a sensitive issue. The West says that it supports a unified country but how can it ensure Yemeni unity?
A. The United States along with our G-18 partners is firmly committed to helping Yemenis end the conflict through the negotiations aimed at an inclusive government that would represent all regions of Yemen, including the South. We firmly believe in a united Yemen as the best guarantee of peace and prosperity for the Yemeni people.
Q. Some consider the Houthi-Saleh Higher Political Committee a declaration of secession. Do you expect the country to split up?
A. We believe that if Yemenis work together through the process proposed by the United Nations that an inclusive and stable solution can be found that will meet the needs of all Yemenis. We expect Yemen will remain united.
Q. Does Ali Abdullah Saleh have a future in Yemen?
A. That is a question to be decided by the Yemeni people.