Yemen, which not long ago showed to the world an example of a peaceful resolution to an acute internal conflict, is now in need of help from Russia. Yesterday Yemen’s President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi discussed this issue with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Today, April 3, Yemen’s leader is in negotiations with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. In his exclusive interview to the Voice of Russia Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi talks about his talks in Moscow, about the opportunities of developing ties with Russia, including the area of military and technical cooperation, as well as about the current situation in Yemen.
Mister President, you discussed the economic issues as well as the political problems with your colleague Vladimir Putin. In your opinion, what are the most important results of those negotiations?
I came to Moscow primarily to thank Russia. Your country supported Yemen in a very difficult period. Over the last few years the Middle East has gone through major changes. These changes first of all concerned such countries as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and of course, Yemen, and now Syria.
In the case of Yemen what helped was that the UN Security Council took a united stand on finding the ways towards the crisis resolution. The common goal was not to let Yemen slide into a civil war. We are grateful to the Russian leadership for supporting the initiative of the Arab countries of the Gulf area aimed at resolving the crisis in Yemen.
All fifteen members of the UN Security Council unanimously, which is worth a special mentioning, supported the resolution number 2014 on that initiative and the mechanisms of its implementation (in October 2011 – the VofR).
A bit later another resolution was issued with number 2051, which once again supported that initiative as well as the procedure for the peaceful transfer of power in Yemen, as well as for conducting of early elections. We are still acting within the framework of that initiative, so once again thank you for the support.
What other questions did you discuss with the Russian president?
We discussed the state of affairs in the region, and of course, the opportunities for developing cooperation between Yemen and Russia. Our countries have long-standing and firm ties. In 2013 we will be marking the 85th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Russia and Yemen. The relations developed in the times of the Soviet Union and then later. The relations developed with Southern Yemen and Northern Yemen, as well as with the united Yemen after both parts were united in 1990.
That was a wonderful year in many respects. In 1990 Yemen became unified, Western and Eastern Germany also became unified, there were changes in the socialist camp. And despite all those changes, relations with Russia continued to develop. Just one example is in the area of arms trade. Even prior to the unification, both Northern and Southern Yemen had military equipment from Russia.
Nowadays due to all these recent changes you probably hardly buy any weapons from Russia? And prior to that you even bought MIG-29 fighters. By the way, are you satisfied with them?
Yes, back then we bought two squadrons of MIG-29. Those are good fighter planes. But now we have no money for such acquisitions, we have other worries. And the most important thing we want is peace. The period of the cold war is over. Our country has resolved all its territorial issues with the Sultanate of Oman, with Saudi Arabia and Eritrea. So, there are no problems with that. There are other problems. Fifty years ago the citizens of Yemen were promised that they would be provided with five basic things: water, food and medication, electricity, healthcare and education. However, even now not all of our citizens have all this in sufficient quantities. This area is a priority for us.
Which specific projects did you discuss in Moscow?
We asked the Russians to help us upgrade our aircraft inventory. That includes helicopters, military cargo planes, fighter planes, some of which are quite outdated. That includes MIG-21, SU-22, helicopters MI-35 and cargo planes IL-76, Antonov-26 (AN-26), as well as MIG-29.
Did you ask for Russia’s help in fighting terrorism?
We proposed to expand our cooperation in fighting terrorism. Terrorism has no country of origin and has no borders. When our Abyan province got into the hands of al-Qaeda, it turned out that there were Afghani, US, Chechen, Indian, Pakistani and European citizens there.
However, we managed to overcome that. The parallel “government”, which the extremists already set up in the provinces of Abyan and Shabwah, we got rid of it with the help of the army. Back then the army was going through a difficult moment due to the crisis (spring of 2012 – the VofR), but it pulled itself together in fighting the terrorists. Remember back then there were fights in Sana, but the military overcame the disputes and were sent to liberate the provinces occupied by the terrorists. People’s armed units acted together with the military.
Your Excellency, you have managed to facilitate the process of national reconciliation in Yemen, which is also known as the national dialogue. What is the main goal – to conduct parliamentary and presidential elections in 2014 or is the goal somewhat broader?
Yemen is now going through a turning point of its history. There has been a constant fight in our country over the past fifty years. The South fought against the North, and then there were some other fights both in the South and the North. We want the political system in our country to correspond to the demands of the XXI century. But we want that new system to rely on whatever useful things that were present in the old system. Those were the goals of the national dialogue in Yemen.
Syria is now going through a very complicated moment in its history. Mister President, don’t you think that something from your experience would be useful for the fighting Syria?
This is exactly what we would like to see in Syria. Yemen’s experience needs to be used. And that is what we discussed with President Putin. There can be no winner or looser in the war in Syria. And I discussed with President Putin how the Yemen scenario could be applied to resolve the conflict in Syria.