Political Analysis

British Foreign Office Minister: “No real alternative to National Dialogue”

National Yemen

Alistair Burt

BY NY Staff

Alistair Burt, the United Kingdom’s British Foreign Office Minister visited Aden on December 5th along with a delegation of representatives from the United States, Russia and the European Union.

In a press conference held in Sana’a on the same day, Burt observed that 10 years had passed since the last time a British minister had paid a visit to the one-time southern capital.

He stated that the visit had a specific purpose, that of sending a message to the southern governorates. According to Burt, their participation in the National Dialogue Conference was a prerequisite for both the holding of the dialogue and its potential success.

Burt recalled how a year back, the Yemeni people had arrived at a crossroads concerning how to solve their internal challenges and arrive at a resolution following the revolution. They were faced with the challenge of whether to find a peaceful solution – or one that involved violence.

In the British Minister’s opinion, such a choice had once again presented itself.

The dialogue, Burt stated, was a key element of the GCC plan which received a high degree of support from the International community and United Nations. “In fact, there is no real alternative to the National Dialogue,” he emphasized.

Burt praised efforts by UN Special Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar and expressed his appreciation for President Hadi’s patient leading role and commitment “to tackling terrorism and taking the fight to Al-Qaida.” The Foreign Office Minister also offered condolences to those who lost their lives while fighting to ensure the security of their country and relatives.

Commenting on Hadi’s visit to London last September to meet with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, Burt stated that security and terrorism weren’t the only topics discussed. According to him, the possibility of using money pledged during the ‘Friends of Yemen’ meetings for investment in various sectors was discussed.

“Of course, stability is needed to really bring forth economic prosperity,” added Burt.

In Aden, he met with four groups of people from different factions and with varying stances with regard to the National Dialogue Conference. Among those Burt met with were representatives from groups which fall under the Southern Movement umbrella.

Following the meetings, the U.K. Foreign Office Minister stated that people were divided between a willing stance and a more skeptical one, even though, he noted, he perceived an overall willingness to look toward the future in both cases.

During the conference it was pointed out that there were different models of governance in the world and that a federalist approach might be an option for Yemen, but that maintaining unity was a priority for the country’s long term well-being.

In the investment sector, it was mentioned how Aden’s ports offered great potential to be utilized as a source of revenue.

Mr. Alistair Burt declared that next year’s G8 Presidency, with Cameron as host leader for the United Kingdom, would make sure to deliver support to countries that were undergoing a transitional period or that were part of the Arab Spring.The support is meant to be not only in the public sector but to be expanded to the private sector as well.

Addressing other potential obstacles that could hinder the success of the National Dialogue (provided all factions agreed to take part in it), Mr. Burt pointed towards the complexity of human emotions. “Letting go of the past and forgetting how one has been wronged is probably the most difficult thing to do”, at the same time this is an essential decision on which to act upon as it opens the way to move forward.

“No one can tell Yemeni people how to handle this situation; nonetheless, there is a need for all parts to come to a reasonable compromise and have a unanimous commitment to bring about a positive change, to find once again a peaceful solution at the end of the crossroads.”