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Minaikher to Asharq Al-Awsat: Our Only Choice Is Supporting Political Solution in Yemen

Minaikher to Asharq Al-Awsat: Our Only Choice Is Supporting Political Solution in Yemen

Monday, 4 July, 2022 - 06:00
Gulf Cooperation Council Ambassador to Yemen Sarhan al-Minaikher. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Gulf Cooperation Council Ambassador to Yemen Sarhan al-Minaikher has been a witness to key developments in the war-torn country for years.

In 2013, the young Saudi worked closely on the national dialogue. He witnessed the developments that followed and that impeded the political process in the country and resulted in the coup by the Iran-backed Houthi militias.

He followed up on all changes in Yemen, starting from when he worked at the GCC, which sent him as an observer to the national dialogue, until he rose up the ranks and became the council's envoy to the country.

Minaikher is like a bridge between pre- and post-coup Yemen, a time when Yemenis could plan a future and time when the nightmare coup dashed away their dreams.

In an interview to Asharq Al-Awsat, the diplomat said he still recalls Sanaa, which is now in Houthi hands, and the joys he shared with the Yemenis after they chose the political shift themselves through the peaceful transfer of power and later the comprehensive national dialogue.

Asked where he was when the Houthi coup took place on September 21, 2014, he replied that he was in New York taking part in the GCC ministerial meetings as part of the United Nations General Assembly.

“I had departed Sanaa the first week of September to prepare for the meetings,” he added from Stockholm where he was taking part in the Yemen International Forum.

On the crisis in Yemen and the latest UN-sponsored truce, Minaikher said the GCC has only one choice and that is supporting the political solution to the crisis.

On the truce, he said the GCC fully supports it so that it can transform into a foundation for the political solution.

There can be no start to any political negotiations without a truce, he stressed.

“I believe the end of the crisis isn’t far out of reach. It may be very close should the Yemeni parties place their country’s higher interests above personal ones,” he added.

“Once they reach these convictions, then peace will be within reach,” he said.

“The Yemenis are aware of their history. Yemen is part of the Arabian Peninsula and an extension of the GCC. It cannot be separated from that. Yemen must coexist with its natural neighbors in the Arabian Peninsula as a free Arab country,” Minaikher urged.

Yemen trusts the Gulf

Minaikher was present at the Riyadh consultations that were held between Yemeni parties in Riyadh from March 29 to April 7. He played the role of ensuring the success of the consultations under the leadership of GCC Secretary-General Dr. Nayef al-Hajraf and other council officials.

“The consultations were a success for many main reasons, chief among them is the Yemenis’ trust in their neighbors in the GCC,” stressed Minaikher.

Experience has shown that the Yemenis trust their neighbors more than any other friendly nations, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Commenting on the truce, he said the Saudi-led Arab coalition and Oman had exerted great efforts that led to the declaration of the ceasefire. This allowed UN envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg to draft a political roadmap that culminated in former President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi announcing that he was transferring his power to the new Presidential Leadership Council.

Minaikher stressed that the GCC is always ready to host any meetings between Yemenis, meaning the committees and councils that are formed by the PLC. The Gulf countries also support any political consultations that are sponsored by the UN, he emphasized, recalling Kuwait’s hosting of 111-day consultations in 2016.

Merging the economy

Minaikher spoke in Sweden about the possibility of merging the Yemeni economy with those of the Gulf, raising many questions.

He cited a decision by the GCC summit held in Riyadh in December 2015 that discussed holding a conference to rebuild Yemen and facilitating the merger of its economy with those of the GCC when peace is established.

Such a move would lift customs restrictions and allow the construction of Gulf companies in Yemen that employ Yemeni workers, said the ambassador, adding that this was just one of the many benefits that the country would enjoy from the merge.

Development challenges

When addressing Gulf unity, one must speak of the AlUla summit that was held in early 2021.

The summit resulted in the resumption of the work of GCC committees dedicated to the Yemeni economy and its development, explained Minaikher.

One of these bodies is the joint technical committee dedicated to determining the development needs of Yemen. All Gulf countries are part of the committee.

Another is the office of coordinating Gulf relief and humanitarian aid to Yemen. The committee was formed through a Gulf-Yemeni ministerial decision in 2016 and all Gulf development funds contribute to it, said Minaikher.

Addressing criticism by some Yemeni activists that Gulf contributions are not being felt on the economy, he explained that development projects take time to be carried out, so it is normal for some people to feel that they are not seeing their results.

“Take hospitals, for example. All hospitals in Yemen are being operated through power that is supported by the GCC,” he added.

The Saudi Program for the Development and Reconstruction of Yemen had announced an oil derivatives grant of 424 million dollars that will go to generating electricity.

Saudi Arabia announced last week a package of projects worth 400 million dollars to Yemen. It will dedicate 900 million dollars to the Saudi and United Arab Emirates deposit to support the purchase of more oil derivatives, all of which provide power to hospitals, schools, airports and state institutions.

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