INTERVIEW: Yemeni Premier Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr speaks to Ahram Hebdo

Ahmed Eleiba , Wednesday 24 Aug 2016

Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr
(File Photo) Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr attends a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 18, 2016. (Reuters)

With the war in Yemen now resuming following the failure of negotiations in Kuwait to produce a political settlement, Ahram Hebdo spoke to Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr about the conflict.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed—the UN special envoy for Yemen— is currently trying to push the diplomatic path forward through his visits to states uch as Oman, and to the Arab League.

However, some voices are arguing that Ahmed can present no further contributions to the Yemeni crisis in the future, although bin Daghr has a different opinion.

"We believe the roles of the UN and Ahmed in Yemen remain crucial and necessary at this phase. We support the position of Ahmed and in fact the man continues to exert huge efforts, though suffering from the ignorance and foolishness of other groups," he said.

When asked on whether or not new peace talks will potentially be held, bin Daghr said: "Ahmed will return from Oman, and there will be a new diplomatic path to some extent, though I don't know whether it will be based in Kuwait or somewhere else."

He emphasised the presence of "real willingness" by his government to resume talks—especially in issues related to "the peace and stability" of Yemen.

But he expressed his rejection for any sacrifice of the unity and the republican system of Yemen, describing it as a "red line."

Bin Daghr pointed out that some UN member states are backing the positions of the Houthi rebels and ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the ally of the Shia rebel group, referring specifically to Russia.

For instance, he said that Ahmed requested the issuance of a UN condemnation statement against the actions of the Houthi-Saleh bloc, but Russia did not vote in favour of it, in addition to being to the only country to send a diplomatic delegation to attend the declaration of a political council by the Houthis in Sanaa last month.

Bin Daghr however stated that he believes that Russia will "eventually respect the will of the Yemeni people."  

"We understand that the Russian have interests in the regions, but the Yemenis should not pay the price for this; we don't accept that," he said.  

"We have two big problems that we are facing at the same time. There is an overthrow of the legitimate authority, and there is terrorism by Islamic State militant group and Al Qaeda. We are fighting against the Houthis and we are backed by the Arab states, and we also fighting against Al-Qaeda [with the backing of] the international community,” he said.

“We believe that we have achieved success in some aspects," the prime minister added.

Bin Daghr said that the international community is more involved in the issue of combating terrorism than in combating the Houthis, believing that the latter is an "internal conflict."

But for bin Daghr and his government, the Houthi issue embodies a "conflict between an attempt to have a divine right to rule in Yemen, and another one seeking to promote freedom, pan-Arabism and development."  

Regarding his visit to Cairo last week, Bin Daghr described it as "a gain in itself," stressing that political solutions to the Yemeni crisis should neither harm the interests of Yemen nor the security of Arab states, including "Egyptian national security."  

Ahram Online: Mr. Prime Minister, some figures on your side say the Houthis and the Islamic State militant group share a relationship. Don't you think that the ideological dissimilarity between them leads to enmity, and not shared interests?

Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr: They both represent a threat to the state. The Houthis are against the republican system, and they certainly don't accept the unity of Yemen. The unity of the Yemeni regions happens only when a republican system is in place.

Hence, we are facing a violent, terrorist group that knows nothing but acts of killing. Both the Houthis and Al Qaeda have the same goal, which is destroying the state. Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Houthis want to have a presence, and the way to achieve this goal is to destroy the state.

As for Saleh, he has helped the Houthis achieve many of the gains they have made on the ground, but they are still the major actor in Yemen at the moment. He gave them access to the republican guards, and provided them with weapons, ammunition, ammunition depots and people to fight with them.

Saleh believes that, through this approach, he can restore his leadership of the state. But many developments have given the Houthis the upper hand and as of now Saleh is weak. His approach appears to me as nothing but political recklessness and no talks with the Saudis will take place.

Concerning Ahmed, Saleh's son, and his recent talks with the Houthis in Abu Dhabi, we don't care much about this visit. Neither Ahmed nor his father can decide anything. It is the Houthis who are ruling Yemen in the meantime.

We believe that new changes will take place on the Yemeni scene, and this conclusion can be reached on the basis of the ongoing battles. On the political level, I cannot hide that Middle Eastern issues are linked to international positions, but we are expecting positive stances after we accepted the concessions that the international community asked us to make.

After the Houthis showed stubbornness, we expect the UN Security Council to take positive decisions in the future, if there is justice and a willingness to abide by such a principle.

AO: Do you expect the military confrontations to produce a positive outcome?

ABD: Yes, and I promise soon we will be in Sanaa.

AO: Do you have any expectations for the timeframe?

ABD: No, because battles are going back and forth. But I can say that in the next few days we will be there, for we are militarily advancing every day, and the sounds of our artillery is heard everywhere in Sanaa.

AO: In terms of unity in Yemen, what's your perspective on that issue?

ABD: Yes, there will be a new shape for the state and for the issue of unity as well. The issue of Yemen's unification is a complex one to some extent, and it will take us a long time to tackle it. It is the experience of a whole nation that includes several historical phases, aims and developments. It also includes constitutions and laws that were established, while others were cancelled.

We addressed the issue during the national dialogue conference on this basis, which is the fact that we have one population living in the same territory.

But the problems of the southern areas should be solved, and the acts of foolishness that were committed against the people in Lahij, Abyan, Shabwa and Hadhramaut should stop.

The political forces that attended the national dialogue agreed that Yemen needs to maintain its unity, though restructuring it is a necessity.

I agree with this point of view, and also agree that the 1990 unification agreement is no longer in place. In the next days, a federal state that is composed of six regions will be put in place, which is consistent with the conclusions of the national dialogue. 


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