By Fazli Corman
This is my third year in Yemen and I have observed closely the whole transition period until now. Turkey has deep-rooted relations with Yemen and currently follows the developments in the country with a close and positive interest. We supported the GCC deal and the peaceful transitional period it envisaged. We are for the unity, security, stability, and prosperity of Yemen, and believe that this can only be achieved through a comprehensive political process embracing the whole of Yemeni society in a democratic and peaceful manner.
In this regard, Turkey has planned and started implementing bilateral projects in the fields of education, health, agriculture, fisheries, and culture. We opened the TIKA Office in Sana’a, and Turkish Airlines has increased the frequency of its flights to and from Sana’a and Aden and improved the planes. We have also seen a significant increase in the number of Yemeni visitors to Turkey for sight-seeing and cultural, educational, or medical trips. The number and quality of Yemeni students studying in Turkey by Turkish government scholarships or by their own means have increased over the last years rapidly. I am also very happy to see that there are developments in the field of sending Yemeni students to Turkey for study through the financing of the Yemeni government itself.
These relations in the fields of culture, tourism, and education should be coupled by concrete cooperation in the economic fields on the ground. We saw a good level of increase in our bilateral trade over the last years. We are happy to note that our trade reached more than $600 million in 2013, but we are not comfortable to see it being only Turkish exports to Yemen. Our attempt to balance our trade through contracted purchases of oil and gas from Yemen didn’t bear fruit until now; but we are still working in this field. We also couldn’t register much development in the area of shipping arrangements between our countries. I am sorry to state that Yemeni ports are not managed well, prohibiting any development despite the potentials being very high.
Another area where there is room for a lot of improvement is foreign investment environment in Yemen. I, unfortunately, have seen some small and medium enterprise attempts by Turks to do business in Yemen failing terribly due to the hostile and corrupt business environment in Yemen. The Government should take this issue seriously if they are going to have any meaningful economic activity in Yemen that would be integrated with the rest of the world. Turkey stands ready to share its experience and know-how in this field with its Yemeni brothers and sisters. In this framework, we promised to host an investment conference about Yemen in Turkey when the conditions are ripe for such an event.
When it comes to the latest events in Yemen, which left even the closest observers of Yemen in shock, I would like to state that we in Turkey believe that such issues relate to how and by whom this country will be ruled and should be exclusively a matter of Yemen’s own business. The international community should be supporting Yemen’s endeavours in this direction by carefully avoiding any policy action that might be interpreted as interference in Yemeni domestic politics.
Nevertheless, Turkey stands by the good intended Yemenis who wish for a better Yemen and work in a frank and transparent way to achieve this goal. I personally believe that what Turkey stands for as a case of achievement in our region is a positive influence by itself, even when we don’t do anything specific. The Turkish people and the government are very warm and good intended towards Yemenis. I would like to call upon all Yemeni brothers and sisters not to give credit to those who are trying to show Turkey in a negative perspective regarding Yemen. They are only playing their own political games that have been undermining this country throughout its history. I still want to believe that the Yemeni nation will be able to overcome its differences and problems through peaceful dialogue that hopefully would lead into a rare example of a functioning democracy of its own sort in Yemen.
Unfortunately, we are not going to hold a reception for our National Day, which is on the 29th of October because of the uncertainty of the situation in Yemen.