The Russian Ambassador to Yemen Vladimir Dedushkin said in an interview on the situation in Yemen, the prospects for resolution of the Yemen conflict, and the work of the Embassy in the complicated conditions of wartime and humanitarian assistance provided by Russia.
– What is the situation now in Yemen? Please tell us about the situation in the region as a whole. Has there been any progress in the settlement of the Yemen conflict?
– The Yemeni crisis, without doubt, is one of the links of the so-called “Arab spring” swept the Middle East in 2011. Its consequences are evident in the form of large-scale military and political conflicts plaguing today Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen. Analysts are trying to understand who is the author of all these events. I personally don’t believe in a certain conspiracy theory. However, the West’s attempts to impose Arab peoples of the forum took place and take place now, stimulating the proliferation of crises. Not want to slide into ideological formats, but in the Arab world more and more clearly realize the difference between the regional policy of Russia and Western partners, primarily the United States. The evidence suggests that Russia proceeds from the will of the peoples of the region. In the West still find it difficult to grasp the emerging polycentric world order, and sometimes can not get rid of an obsession to overthrow undesirable regimes and attempts to “assign” regional statesmen at their discretion.
The year of the war in Yemen: how has the conflict
The roots of the Yemeni crisis and its continuation to a large extent, related not only to purely internal problems, but external factors. In particular, the desire of some countries to resolve it by entering the international sanctions against the leaders of some political forces of the Republic of Yemen or the imposition of schemes of economic regulation on the patterns of the world Bank and the IMF, providing for the withdrawal of subsidies, for example, on petroleum products. This is, in fact, provoked the speech of the Houthis with the further escalation of the situation.
Unfortunately, clear prospects for early settlement in Yemen are not visible. It is easy to start a war, but much harder to end. The fact remains – the bloody fratricidal conflict in Yemen has been ongoing for almost a year. Why begin? In any case, Russia has been against a military solution from the beginning. That was one of the key reasons that we have not voted in support of UN security Council resolution 2216 on Yemen, adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and allowed the entry of sanctions and use of force scenarios. We have always strongly advocated for the resolution of the crisis solely by politico-diplomatic means.
– From August 2014 in Yemen does not stop the confrontation between the authorities and the Shiite Houthis movement “Ansar Allah”. The Yemeni government is in exile, but declares readiness to negotiate. Are the talks, the Houthis? What they want and require?
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– To understand the positions of the parties, let’s try at least briefly to restore the course of events. Open confrontation between the authorities and the Houthis, supported by the largest party of the Yemeni General people’s Congress (GPC) led by former President Ali Abdullah Salih, and more than 70 % of the Yemeni army, began in late 2014. Then President Hadi and Prime Minister H. Bahah announced his resignation, citing her inability to manage the country in the conditions set by the Houthis control over state institutions after the occupation by them of Sana’a in September 2014. However, later, when the President, Prime Minister and other Ministers moved to Riyadh, they withdrew the resignation. Then, in March 2015, following President Hadi Coalition of several Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia launched a military operation with use of aviation against the “Ansar Allah” and their supported army units. The stated aim of this operation, which continues to this day, was to force his return to Sana’a legitimate government. The legitimacy of the Yemeni government, temporarily stranded in Saudi Arabia, recognized by the majority of countries, including Russia.
It would seem that the purpose referred to military action clear and logical, however, proved to be very elusive. The militia movement “Ansar Allah” and solidaritybased with him the military had offered fierce resistance to the troops of supporters of President Hadi. There are different versions why the Houthis manage to withstand the onslaught of firepower of the coalition with the most modern American weapons. In the media of the countries of the GCC (the cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf), for example, an opinion prevails that they are assisted by Iran. However, to prove this yet no one has. The Houthis explain their military success to the support of the population, which they managed to mobilize under the slogan of combating foreign intervention, and appeals to the majority of ordinary Yemenis calls “Ansar Allah” to fight corruption. By the way, the line to eradicate corruption and al-Qaeda (a terrorist organization banned in Russia – approx.) and was the strategy of the movement “Ansar Allah”, which was underlying the Houthis declared a people’s revolution to create a democratic, secular state, free from foreign influence.
With regard to the positions of the warring parties during the negotiations mediated by the special envoy of the UN Secretary-General, Ismail Ould Cheikh al-Ahmad, then both of them confirm interest in settling and willingness to search for compromise solutions. The difference in approaches is motivated accumulated during the conflict negative potential mutual mistrust and rejection. The government views the Huthis as criminals who have committed a coup and obliged to answer for the destruction of the country, and does not consider them equal partners in the negotiations and as a party who ought to plead, to surrender their weapons and to leave occupied territory. The Houthis with such approach categorically do not agree, from the revolutionary ideology is not going to give and, in turn, accuse the government and the Coalition in numerous civilian casualties and destruction of infrastructure in the bombing. While in Riyadh the government they view as a puppet and supposedly retired, insisting on the formation of a new government of national unity. The Houthis are prepared in principle to withdraw from the occupied territories and hand over heavy weapons, as called for in resolution 2216 of the UN security Council, but not as a unilateral step, and in the framework of an eventual agreement about the General settlement. They reject the government’s requirement on their prior unconditional care. And there is a specific reason for this. Inconsistent between the parties, the evacuation of Houthis is fraught with fill the vacuum with extremists and terrorists from the Islamic state (a terrorist organisation, banned in Russia – approx.) and “al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”.
– The first meeting between representatives of the government of Yemen and the Houthis, a result of the efforts of the UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh al-Ahmed, had yielded no tangible results. Date following negotiations was scheduled for January 14, but they failed. When you can hold the next round? And what’s the point of negotiations when neither party wants to compromise?
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– The efforts of the UN envoy should not be underestimated. Last megionskaya meeting in the Swiss city of Biel in late December of last year took place on the basis of an agreed Ismail Ould Sheikh al-Ahmed, and a lot of effort, agenda. It was the first direct contact between the parties, in which I was able to participate directly. Note that in the process of efforts on the Syrian settlement direct contact between the parties yet to organize is not possible.
In Biel was established “Committee on de-escalation” led by the coordinator from the UN and composed of military representatives of the parties. The Committee’s task is to monitor the ceasefire if the regime can enter. Were also established committees on humanitarian Affairs and a political settlement. In other words, the UN was able to lay the foundations of future mechanisms for ceasefire and political dialogue. Albeit these mechanisms are not used in full and confrontation is not stopped, but the first step towards peace is made.
Special envoy of the UN is now conducting intensive contacts with the aim of convening the next round of consultations. At this stage, training is faced with certain difficulties, because the parties are trying to arrange a meeting prerequisites. In particular, the Houthis and the GPC insist on the cessation of bombing, and the government requires the implementation of coherent in Biel confidence-building measures, including the release of the Houthis political prisoners and the withdrawal of circle from the third largest Yemeni city of Taiz.
Russia urges the parties to overcome these overall technical difficulties and points to the counterproductive preconditions. I wish Yemenis in Sana’a and Riyadh realized that a military solution to the conflict does not exist and the next meeting is to be held at any cost in the near future. I hope that it will be so.
– Because of growing anarchy in the country a fertile ground for terrorists, who have penetrated into Yemen from all regions, including from Syria. What is known about the presence of militants “Islamic state” and al-Qaida, fighting with them anyone? If so, can we call this fight a success?
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– Indeed, the war has created fertile ground for the growth activity of terrorist organizations of various stripes. Reportedly, the extremist groups, bred in large areas of the Eastern and southern parts of the country, including the largest port city of Aden and Mukalla, are not only replenished by fighters from Syria, but even trying to use the experience of Syrian smugglers on smuggling from Yemen oil and oil products. We believe that these details need serious attention and scrutiny.
Paradoxically, today the extremists are fighting only troops of the movement “Ansar Allah”, they declared irreconcilable war. Naturally, the effectiveness of this struggle is uncertain, as the Houthis have to act on two fronts – against the Coalition and the resistance factions that support the government, but also against terrorist groups. There is no doubt that opposition to terrorism would have been much more successful if the Yemenis after civil strife, together piled on a common enemy in “Islamic state” and al-Qaida. While this can only dream of.
– At the time, the special envoy of the UN Secretary General had offered to Yemen by international observers. Were any concrete steps in this direction and what for it is necessary? As far as this is required by the prevailing situation in the country?
– Ismail Ould Sheikh al Ahmed managed to create a prototype of a monitoring mechanism for the ceasefire. It is expected that this body will soon be strengthened and will work really effectively due to the incorporation of the commissioners of military experts representing opposing forces. Work in this direction is underway. Importantly, this structure was endowed with not only Supervisory functions, but also had real opportunities to influence the militants and the army in the field, would have direct military command of the coalition, based in Saudi Arabia. Now we should strive not to search for new schemes, and to run existing. Russia, as a permanent member of the UNSC would assist the special envoy of necessary cooperation in this important matter.
– Proceeding from this situation, we can assume that in Yemen a possible Libyan scenario, where there are two governments and two parliaments. Who, in your opinion, has a crucial role in the resolution of Yemeni conflict and what should be his decision? How can you stop the war?
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– Unfortunately, we cannot exclude the mentioned scenario with the two governments. The Houthis, who have been forced in the context of a protracted war accompanied by numerous casualties and humanitarian catastrophe (according to the UN, the death toll reached 8.1 thousand people, wounded 20 thousand people, internally displaced persons, 2.3 million people requiring humanitarian assistance 21 million people) to address administrative and economic issues, seriously thinking of formation of separate authorities and conduct of elections outside of the political process.
I believe that such unilateral steps, which logic in General, although understandable, could only to tighten the knot of contradictions. At the same time, it is clear and the other a severe economic crisis in Yemen, the growing external military intervention and blockade, as soon as possible to resolve. Country, as they say, goes “off the rails” with the known consequences on the model of Syria, Iraq and Libya. Yemen ever close to that dangerous point, if not already passed it.
The war must be immediately stopped. This can be achieved solely through political will both on the part of the Yemenis themselves, and involved in the conflict of external players, particularly the neighbors of Yemen, particularly Saudi Arabia. It is time for all to understand that winning this war will not, and could not be from the beginning. Other basis for decoupling, in addition to the known principle of “no victors, no vanquished” does not exist, how would that many and didn’t like it.
It is important to do everything possible to break the cycle of violence in Yemen through inclusive dialogue that considers the interests of all Yemenis, to achieve long-awaited peace in that sisterly country.
– Do the coalition’s operation in Yemen from the air and does a ground operation? What is its scale?
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– Unfortunately, continues, and in the considerable scale, although ground operation of the coalition it is not. Daily bombed the province of Sana’a, Taiz, Hodeidah, al-Jawf, al-Khoja, Saad, Maarib. In recent years, particularly intensive attacking the capital. On casualties and humanitarian catastrophe as a result of these actions I have already said. I said, and that the effectiveness of this air war is highly questionable, since the Houthis in General, attempts to restrain counter-attacks by government forces on all fronts and feel militarily confident enough. Moreover, in recent times they are increasingly using ballistic missile ground-to-ground short-range, causing substantial damage to the bases of the opposite side, often the victims of such attacks become military advisers from the countries of the GCC.
In General it can be said that the fighting took positional character, and none of the parties much success has not. It also confirms stated by me earlier, the thesis about the absolute senselessness of war in Yemen.
– How is the work of the Russian Embassy? The conditions in which it has to operate diplomats? How many Russians remain in Yemen?
– Certainly, our Embassy is working in difficult wartime conditions. The membership changes periodically. Overall there are about two dozen people. This is the minimum required for the normal performance of basic office functions and ensure appropriate security conditions. The Embassy maintains regular communication with Moscow, informing about the current situation in Yemen.
The total number of Russian citizens who are in Yemen at a permanent residence after several stages of evacuation, carried out by our special cruise and military ships, and difficult to determine. You can say that it has fallen to a few hundred. Mostly wives and children of Yemenis who do not plan to leave the country. Everyone is already taken.
After the start of the political crisis in Yemen in 2011, the level of bilateral Russian-Yemeni cooperation significantly declined. Tell me, what is at the moment our interaction? Continue in Yemen to work with Russian companies, in particular, in the areas of oil production and implementation of infrastructure facilities, the doctors?
– Civil war could not but affect bilateral cooperation, which, for objective reasons, has decreased significantly. In particular, suspension of the work of Bilateral Commission on economic and scientific-technical cooperation. Had begun to look to Yemen after the events of the “Arab spring” of 2011, Russian companies, particularly in the energy, postponed their plans until better times, and a number of organizations were forced to return Home. Left most of our doctors, except for a few doctors who are still working under a private contract, as they say, at your own risk.
However, accumulated a significant potential of economic cooperation between Russia and Yemen, where only graduates of our universities more than 50 thousand people can rely on the rapid restoration of such links, once the conflict is localized.
– Recently the Ministry of emergency situations of Russia sent to Yemen another plane with humanitarian aid for the residents of this Republic. Will the Russian side to continue to provide humanitarian assistance?
– Russia continues to provide Yemen with the necessary humanitarian assistance. Last year was sent several planes with foodstuffs by the Ministry of emergencies of Russia. As an example I will mention the last one, which the Ministry of emergency situations delivered 22, 5 tons of humanitarian cargo on 6 November 2015. On the return journey the aircraft took 62 people. Among them, 24 citizen of Russia. Russia has also made a contribution earmarked $2 million to Fund the world food programme to provide appropriate assistance to Yemen. We plan to continue this practice.
In Yemen appreciate our support. In personal conversations at various different levels more than once I had to hear the words of deep appreciation. The Yemenis, as we do, there is a proverb: a friend in need. The particular hope that they place on our efforts to overcome the military-political crisis. Not without reason in Yemen rely on existing unique capabilities to work with all parties to the conflict in contrast to most Western partners, have lost, in particular, regard as being in dignity by the leaders of the movement “Ansar Allah” and the leadership of the KSS.
Representatives of the Yemeni government in Riyadh and Aden, where recently moved President Hadi and the Vice-President, Prime Minister H. Bahah as their political opponents in Sanaa know that Russia was and will remain an influential force in the middle East, including in Yemen, and never throws friends at a critical juncture of history.
Talked Julia Nemchenko