International conference agrees on plan for Yemen's terror problem

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

An international conference in London on Tuesday came up with a plan to fight al-Qaeda's presence in Yemen. Delegates present at the conference were from twenty countries, including Yemen, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

David Miliband, chair of the conference.
Image: Munich Security Conference.

The conference was called by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown due to the failed Christmas Day plot to blow up a US plane, for which al-Qaeda in Yemen claimed responsibility. However, the attendees stress that the al-Qaeda presence is not Yemen's only problem, and that it cannot be solved without first dealing with the others.

Cquote1.svg we—the international community—can and must do more. Cquote2.svg

—Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said that bringing peace to Yemen and making it more stable is a major priority for the United States. She said that the United States had signed a three-year agreement on security development in Yemen. "To help the people of Yemen, we—the international community—can and must do more. And so must the Yemeni government," she said.

Clinton said that she does not believe that military action would be enough to solve Yemen's problems, and that corruption must be combated as well as building up democratic institutions and promoting human rights. She asked that the government of Yemen begin its proposed ten-point program for the development of these areas and to reduce the influence of extremist organisations.

Yemen is the poorest nation in the Arab world, and its economy was also on the meeting's agenda. The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary David Miliband chaired the talks, and said that the Yemeni government had pledged to begin an attempt to combat this by entering into discussions with the International Monetary Fund, representatives of which were present at the conference, in order to put together a plan for its economy.

Cquote1.svg In tackling terrorism it is vital to tackle its root causes. In Yemen's case these are manifold—economic, social and political Cquote2.svg

—David Miliband

Miliband also announced that a "Friends of Yemen" organisation was to be launched, to discuss the economy, government, and judicial process of Yemen. Also present were delegates from the United Nations, European Union, and World Bank. Miliband acknowledged that the solution was not simply a military one by saying at a press conference, "It's been a common feature of every contribution that we have heard today that the assault on Yemen's problems cannot begin and end with its security challenges and its counter-terrorism strategy. In tackling terrorism it is vital to tackle its root causes. In Yemen's case these are manifold—economic, social and political".

Ali Mujawar, the Prime Minister of Yemen, received this support warmly, but said that any attack on the nation's sovereignty would be considered "unacceptable", and that it should not be portrayed as a failing nation, despite a multitude of problems, including its damaged economy, rapidly growing population, and shrinking oil reserves, as well as the beginning of a drought and its problems with insurgents, such as al-Qaeda terrorists. British Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis echoed Mujawar's statements by saying that Yemen is "not a failed state", but "an incredibly fragile state". Lewis also said that "[s]upporting the government of Yemen is crucial to the stability of that country but it is also crucial to the stability of the world".

Yemen's Foreign Minister, Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, asked the delegates at the conference for "international support to build infrastructure, combat poverty and create jobs, as well as support in combating terrorism". However, he said that the idea of having US military bases in Yemen was "inconceivable".

Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa is unsure how useful the meeting will be. He expressed these concerns by telling the BBC, "I don't know how a conference like that can decide something useful, something reasonable for Yemen... in a couple of hours", and saying that it was a "strange" and "very unusual sign" that the Arab League had not been given the chance to send delegates to the conference, despite wanting to discuss all of Yemen's problems without specific focus on al-Qaeda. Despite these concerns, donors from a number of Western and Gulf nations have agreed to meed again, this time in the Saudi Arabian capital city of Riyadh, in February.


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