MUNICH - SABA
His Excellency President Dr. Rashad al-Alimi, Chairman of the Presidential Leadership Council, held discussions on 18th of February,2023 in Munich with media on the sideline of Munich 59th Security Conference. Here is the text of the discussions.
Q: Your Excellency became chairman of the Presidential Leadership Council in April of last year, there was a truce lasted until October, then the truce has broken down, what are the prospects for the truce now?
A: Thank very much for this opportunity to be here with you to send several messages I think they are important for us in the Presidential Council, the government and the Yemeni peoples and the catastrophic situation in Yemen.
First, let me say that all these details of the truce, the humanitarian catastrophe and the war are outcomes. If we don't know the reasons which produced this disastrous situation in Yemen, we'll be unable to diagnose the problem and explore solutions.
The Problem started in 2011 within the course of the so-called 'Arab Spring' Yemen was one of the countries where there were uprisings ended up in power transfer with the mediation by our brethren in the Gulf Cooperation Council and afterwards the United Nations had assumed this file.
We held the National Dialogue Conference. All political parties and constituencies participated in the National Dialogue Conference including the Houthi group. A Panel was created tasked with drafting new constitution for the Republic of Yemen.
It really happened that a new constitution was worded, it was set to be followed by a referendum, presidential and parliamentary elections. At that time the International Security Council held as session in Yemen as a recognition of this unique experiment in Yemen, the region and perhaps in the world.
But it happened that Iran intervened, pushed its terrorist militias backed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to take over power, besieged the President of the Republic and the national unity government in which the Houthis were included. Herein, the story commenced.
The terrorist militias declared the war on the region and the world. After that the Arab Coalition in support of legality intervened.
Then, the International Security Council issued its resolution no (2216) about the Yemeni crisis. Subsequently, all the details we have undergoing today are results of this reckless and sabotage action in the region sponsored by Iran.
Concerning to the truce, since the creation of the Presidential Leadership Council, we have been keen to observe the truce, we actually renewed the truce more than once, but the Houthi militias announced in October that they are no longer committed to the truce, despite of that we have continued to observe the truce until this moment.
Q: Why they don't accept the extension of the truce?
A: This question needs to be put for the terrorist militias and their backers the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. I do believe that there is a sabotage scheme promoted by Al-Quds Corps not only in Yemen but in other places in the region.
Consequentially, these terrorist militias receive their instructions from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' operations units.
The Houthi militias, indeed, put Iran's interests above the Yemeni peoples' interest and engulfed the Yemeni people in this overwhelming catastrophe, what an awesome disaster can be bigger than to randomly plants millions of landmines in Yemen.
KSrelief Center's Demining Projects in Yemen (MASAM) started its mission in 2018 has managed to remove 386 thousand of landmines and explosives devices until mid-February, 2023 from the regions which liberated from Houthi militias control. Imagine how large is the number of the landmines laid down all over Yemen, it may be millions.
Q: Are there any demands or certain concessions you're willing to offer for peace or cease-fire at least?
A: Throughout the 8 years we have made all concessions. A typical example for the concessions offered by the legitimate government is Stockholm Agreement.
The national military troops were merely three kilometers away from Hodeidah seaport, the troops were came very close to liberate the seaport. But the International Community (IC) mounted pressures upon the legitimate government and imposed Stockholm Agreement.
The Stockholm Agreement enabled the Houthis to keep on their control over Hodeidah seaports under the pretext of the humanitarian situation of Hodeiah. After that what happened, the Houthis haven't observed any articles of Stockholm Agreement unit this moment.
The humanitarian situation further exacerbated. Hodeidha seaport has been used to spread marine mines. The terrorist Houthi group threatened openly in more than one occasion that they are going to attack the commercial ships in the Red Sea. They organized military parade in the seaport of Hoediah. This was a significant concession, we offered.
The second concession we made when we agreed to the UN-brokered truce.
The truce agreements based on four main articles. First, the cessation of escalation and fighting. Second, to open Hodeidah seaport for oil derivatives. Third, to open Sana'a airport for flights to Jordon and Cairo. Fourth, to open the roads of Taiz city, which has been besieged by the Houthis for seven years.
We, in the legitimate government, have fulfilled our obligations, meanwhile the Houthis have not honored their commitment to open the routes of the besieged city until this moment. Therefore such demands are a sort of blackmailing on regional and international community. The more concessions we offer, the more demands they ask.
Q: As the Houthis has been in control of the north of the most populace, do you agree that they have populace support?
A: The reality is that all reports by human rights organizations speak about stern oppression the women, children, men and old people in the Houthi militias-controlled regions.
Q: You know that even the international organizations operate in relief and humanitarian actions in the militias-controlled regions have not survived their atrocities, they imposed amounts of funds the organizations should pay, if they refuse to do, the militiamen put them in prison.
There are reports by the UN's agencies about this matter. They have imprisoned some staffs of the foreign embassies, they are in jail until this moment, including staffs of the American embassy, some of them may have the American citizenship, they are still imprisoned until this moment. The militiamen have never been held accountable for these actions.
Now there are resentment and rage against the terrorist Houthi militias, the peoples in the militia-controlled regions have demands, the government's employees have not been their own salaries for seven years, even though the militias collected 271 billion Yemeni Rial (YR) as taxes of the oil derivatives through Hodeidah seaport since the beginning of the truce, according a report by the Experts of the UN Panel.
Where did go these billions, they did not pay the employees' salaries, they pillaged these amounts, get rich at the expense of the peoples' bloods and poverty, at the same time they may devote these funds to prepare for a new phase of the war.
The evidence that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been involved in dealing with the peace process is that the international navy forces in the international water seized ships laden with weapons to the Houthis.
The American navy captured shipment of weapons, the United States announced that it would transfer those weapons to Ukraine. The French navy also seized big shipment of the weapons in the sea.
Q: Did you agree to this proposal to diverse them to Ukraine?
A: We are asking for delivering them to the legitimate government, we demanded to be delivered to the legitimate government. They did only give us just samples of the weapons to be provided as proofs to the courts. They handed us the smugglers, of course some of them are Yemenis from the terrorist militias and those who are dealing with the militias.
The suspects were referred to the courts. The court asked for samples of the weapons as evidences of the crimes which are looked into by the courts. The Americans gave us some samples.
Q: If ask you about the peoples' suffering in the north, the peoples are suffering from the Saudi bombing as well ?
A: Firstly, the airstrikes have been totally ceased from nearly one year.
The Coalition led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced the cessation of the air strikes in more than occasion, however the terrorist Houthi militias went on fighting, they decided to conquer Marib, the battles lasted for two successive years, the Yemenis suffered tens of thousands of the fatalities from the national military and from the Houthi militias among of them children whom the militias engaged them in frontline battles.
Therefore the people call for the truce, stop fighting meanwhile the Houthi leader always declares the continuation of the war. This is the real problem we are facing with these militias which don't believe in peace.
The interest of our peoples is to live in peace with our neighbors, we have more than two million migrants in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The livelihoods sources in Yemen are three. First, salaries paid by the government. Second, the humanitarian aids provided by international organizations.
Third, the remittances of the migrants in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries, mainly in the Saudi Arabia, we have more than two million Yemeni expatriates who support more than ten million peoples in Yemen. The migrants' remittances made up four billion USD per year, most of them in Saudi Arabia.
These major interests of the Yemenis sacrificed by the terrorist militias for Iran's interests and the Iranian scheme at the expense of the Yemeni peoples' interests. How can we deal with these militias.
It is very important for the international community to realize that these militias aren't a peace proposal. They are a venture of war, destruction. This is actually correlated to the Iranian expansion plan in the region. Nowadays ,this proposal and influence has reached Europe.
Q: What do you think the international community need to do?
A: The international community throughout 8 years has been exercising stern pressures upon the legitimate government and Arab Coalition. Whenever we moved step forward toward these militias to bring them to the negations and consultations, the international community rush up to pressure us to move backward.
Today, it is time for the international community to mount pressure upon the other party just to sit-down to dialogue. It is a political constituency, we do acknowledge that they are Yemenis, they are our brothers. But they put Iran's interest above the Yemeni peoples' interest.
Therefore, the Yemeni peoples will stand against them, the Yemenis will never make Iran's interest above their own interest. Thereupon, I believe that more pressures upon the militias will be helpful. We designated these militias as a 'Terrorist Group' and started a set of measures in this regard, the Arab League also has designated the militias a 'Terrorist Group'.
We do call on the international community to designate these militias a ' Terrorist Group'. I have been in Brussels on an state-visit in response to an invitation from the European Union (EU), we found positive change in terms of understanding the danger of these militias and their role in the region. The steps have been taken by the EU about designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a Terrorist Organization, we do believe that it is in the right direction.
Q: You call them terrorists but they are force from inside the country, you have seen what happened in Afghanistan, Do you feel that by the end of the day, you have got to make some concessions, and I'm curious to know how do you see a future of a unity government?
A: We do have experiences with them, they were engaged in the national unity government with us, they were participants in the government, we don' have any problem to share in the government, we want them to participate as a political party like other political constituencies in Yemen.
We don't want them to impose the Iranian expansion scheme upon the Yemeni peoples, nor to impose alienated sectarian attitudes on the Yemeni peoples, we don't want them to impose their own doctrines nor to do more than what Taliban is doing in Afghanistan. Nowadays, a woman cannot move from city to another unless she is accompanied by an adult male of first degree relatives.
Let me tell you an anecdote about a woman in Sana'a her car needed some repairs, she drove to a garage to get surprised that she is not allowed to enter the garage. A Houthi militiaman told her " She must have chaperone to be allowed to get her car amended". It is a disastrous situation for women and children. We do deal with the peace process, offer concessions for the sake of the Yemeni peoples, in order to put an end of the Yemenis' suffering.
Q: My question about unilateral negotiations between one of the Arab Coalition's countries and the Houthis! Does Presidential Council know about these negotiations? Do you think this undermines the Presidential Council?
A: Concerning to the talks, first, we are in principle we do bless all efforts have been made whether from our brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or Oman, we do welcome these efforts if it will produce permanent, fair and sustainable peace.
Second, the brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia informed us in the Presidential Leadership Council that there are communications and discussions between the Saudi side and the Houthis, and this is not the first time, we know that there were discussions earlier in the South Dhahran, however the Houthis reneged on that agreement.
For the negotiations you mentioned we do welcome these good offices if it will bring permanent and sustainable peace that put an end of the Yemeni peoples' suffering and stop the Yemenis bloodshed, we are in favor of this peace, but the Saudis clearly informed us that there will never be an agreement between the Saudi Arabia and the Houthis, the Saudis confirmed that these efforts aim to reach an agreement and if they reach an agreement, the agreement will be between the legitimate government and these militias.
Third, any road map for the solution it should be inclusive- complete includes renewing the truce, comprehensive cease-fire and initiating compressive negotiations include security, military, political, economic issues, prisoners. We need comprehensive settlement, we have seen that the phases-designed truce has proved of no use. Every time we renewed the truce with the Houthis, they sought to exercise blackmailing on regional and international community.
We are familiar with the communications but not with the details, because the Saudis are telling us openly there is no agreement until now, there is no agreement even about some points, there are constant consultations may produce outcomes, we do welcome the outcomes, if they will produce peace and Yemeni-Yemeni negotiations, however, these consultations may fail and we will return to the first square, but these consultations will be under the supervision of the UN's Special envoy to Yemen and not anybody else.
Q: What is the constructive role the international community should undertake?
A: In fact the German Berghof Foundation played significant role in organizing deliberations and dialogues among the Yemeni political constituencies. I personally engaged in those discussions before the creation of the Presidential Council. There were positive discussions aimed to bring all Yemeni political constituencies together to explore joint and consensual proposal, the Houthis were invited to participate in those sessions.
For the International community's role, I do believe that there are two main things are required. First, to support the legitimate government and the Presidential Leadership Council economically and politically.
The economic support is urgently and greatly needed because our economic situation is extremely bad, especially after the terrorist Houthi militias' attacks on oil seaports in Hadramout, of course oil exports have been ceased, therefore we are facing serious challenges, we may be unable to pay the salaries of the employees, pensioners and social insurance payments in the government-held regions.
Consequently, we have really a big problem, we do need greater economic support not only in the humanitarian and relief field but also we need to move to the sustainable development and basic services,
We actually started to concentrate on this matter with support by our brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and United Arab Emirates (UAE). Despite the war we are working on building Hassan Dam in Abyan governorate with total cost $78 million, funded by Abu Dabia Development Fund.
We have also Aden Public Hospital which is operated by the KSA, it offers health care and services to nearly half million persons per year from different Yemeni governorates, including Houthi militias-controlled regions.
For the political support, greater pressure upon the militias is needed. So we need both economic and political support. Because we have consumed all concessions we have. I recently said literally to the American envoy we have offered all the concessions, there is nothing remain but to go to the abyss. Following the concessions we offered, we'll go to bottomless abyss.
We need greater pressure upon the militias, the international community is well-aware how to do so, we need more pressures upon the militias in order to sit-down to dialogue, to explore fair, sustainable and permanent solutions, we want them to participate with us as a political party, go to the elections to be chosen by the Yemeni peoples through ballots, if the Yemeni people elect them, they can rule, we have no problem.
But a small group wants to impose the Iran's agenda upon the Yemeni peoples, the Yemeni peoples will resist, whether Arab Coalition continues with us or not, the Yemeni peoples will keep on resisting, and Yemen won't be stable, you know the water passages.
For instance, if the Arab Coalition has not been with us, the Houthis will be controlling Bab el-Mandab and Myeoun island, the most important place where anybody armed with ordinary gun can prevent the ships from crossing this vitally important passageway. Though the Coalition led by the KSA and the active Emirati participation, the terrorist organizations were taking control over governorates.
We had to make great sacrifices, dozens of our officers were assassinated by the terrorists operatives of al-Qaeda and ISIS during previous years so that many officers quitted and stayed at home. Today, the situation is different, we're cooperate about fighting terrorism, there are continuous operations in collaboration with Arab Coalition and international community to fight the terrorism.
Of course, there is much talks about the terrorism. There is collaboration between the Houthi terrorists and al-Qaeda and ISIS, this is well-known, the international community is familiar with this. The Houthis have released all prisoners including the ones who were convicted over charges of al-Qaeda's and ISIS's offenses.
The Houthis have released those terrorist elements from jails, equipped them with weapons, financed them and dispatched them to the government-held regions to carry out terrorist operations there. We have solid evidences and put forward these evidences to the international community and security systems in the region.
Q: What specific pressures the international community need to exercise upon the Houthis?
A: We do believe that blacklisting the Houthi Group in the international list of the terrorist organization is one of the significant pressures can be exercised against these militias.
For example, at present all financial amounts allocated to the international organizations and UN's agencies in Yemen go to the commercial banks in Sana'a, so we told the European Union that these amounts must go to the Central Bank in Aden.
How do you recognize the government in Aden as the legitimate Yemeni regime and it has Central Bank in Aden, meanwhile you transfer all these amounts of funds to the central banks in Sana'a. You should support the legitimate government's economy.
We used to pay the employees' salaries in the Houthis-controlled regions, particularly the salaries of the employees in education, health and the universities . It is the Houthis who rejected to receive and distribute the salaries.
In spite of this, the international community has continued to transfer the financial amounts to the commercial banks in Sana'a to support their economic strength at the expense of the legitimate government's economy.
We want the funds allocated to the international organizations which operate in Yemen to be transferred to the Central Bank in Aden, these amounts come up to billions, we're going to transfer them to commercial banks in Sana'a.
Stockholm Agreement, we were about to submit a request for the UN to suspend this agreement because it becomes useless. However, our allies advised us not to do so. Prior my arrival here in Munich we were informed that the Houthi militias demolished a number of houses of the citizens in Hodeidah, the militiamen accused a number of fellows of being supporters of the legitimate government, they asked women and children to get out of the houses and detonated the houses with explosives devices. Illogical practices.
Q: Would you be willing to pay the salaries of the civil service' employees in the north who have been unpaid for long time, teachers for example?
A: We used to pay the salaries but the Houthis prevented the banks and exchange firms from receiving the amounts of money transferred by legitimate government to pay the salaries in militias-controlled regions because the banknotes of the currency printed by the legitimate government.
The government had to print new version of the currency banknotes to replace the those which were dealing with because they were worn out after 15 years of circulation. The Houthis banned dealing with the new banknotes, consequently, we prevented from paying salaries to the employees in the militias- controlled regions.
The UNICEF two years ago provided the teachers with money assistance in the militias-controlled regions, the Houthis did not allow the UNICEF to deliver the money through its staff, they take over the funds and paid the money only to those who would like to give, and confiscated the remaining amounts, the UNICEF is familiar with this matter.
Q: How would you deal with al-Qaeda ?
A: Al-Qaeda is in existence in the legitimate government-held regions and the Houthis-controlled regions. We are doing our utmost efforts to crack down the operatives of al-Qaeda through the Yemeni armed forces and security service, or through our allies in the Arab Coalition and in collaboration with the international community because we consider the terrorism an international plague plight that all efforts must be joined to fight.
Stability and peace will actually help to get rid of the terrorism, because instability and the continuation of the war are conducive to the terrorism which grows amid instability. When the government has got counter-terrorism organizations, terrorism often disappears, and instability gives rise to the growing of the terrorist organizations.
Q: What about the relation between the Houthis and al-Qaeda?
A: For the relation between the Houthis and the terrorist organizations , of course, the Houthis used to adopt double standard in dealing with al-Qaeda. They are saying we're fighting the terrorism and al-Qaeda, they are selling this discourse to the international community.
At the same time they released the elements who were convicted in terrorism offenses, they released them, provided them with weapons and money, dispatched them to the government-held regions to carry out terrorist operations so that they can say the terrorism is in the legitimate government- held regions, in our regions no terrorism.
It happened that a confrontation occurred between the security forces and terrorist operatives among of them one was convicted in the case of bombing the American worship S.S. Cole, he was serving the ruling of imprisonment he was handed, he was killed in the confrontation with the security forces in the region of al-Dhale'a. the Commander of Counter-Terrorism in al-Dhale'a was killed along with five soldiers, the 8 terrorist operatives were also killed.
The international community was notified about this incident.
Consequently, the Houthis are acting as double-agent. They claim to fight terrorism, in the meantime they collaborate with them. Probably, they have common interest, joint notion. They are telling al-Qaeda the legitimate government is aligning with America and Israel, and the Houthis' Motto" Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse upon Jews", this al-Khomeini's Slogan. So they push al-Qaeda's operatives to battle the legitimate government to get martyrdom in its region.
Q: You said that the Houthis are terrorists, they have similarities with al-Qaeda and you say you are willing to bring them to the government, if you have these concerns how would you deal with?
A: As soon as the Houthis abandon this ultra-radical ideology, once we will be engaged in peace process, there will be references and bases of the peace, most important of all is the UNSCR 2216. There will be references, the peace will not be established randomly.
Thereby, if they abandon the radical ideology, refrain from designating the other sects as "disbelievers". Houthis like al-Qaeda and ISIS designate others as " disbelievers". Once this radical ideology is abandoned, the issue of handing back weapons will be solved, the weapons which they have received from Iran or they looted from the State. With this peace is achieved, peace won't be realized by radical ideology or violence.
Q: How will you work to improve the living conditions and basic services to get the people on your side and show that you are the better party?
A: Since the creation of the Presidential Leadership Council, we have a proposal for peace, puts Yemenis' interest above Iran's interest which the terrorist Houthis militias endorse.
We have a program, we declared at the Parliament in Aden when we were sworn-in. This program outlined its main objectives, the most important of all is to enhance stability, security in the government-held governorates. We started re-structuring the security organizations, established Military and Security Committee to re-organize the military, we re-established the Supreme Judiciary Council and the Prosecution.
I would like to say that a woman was appointed in the Supreme Judiciary Council, it is the first time in Yemen's history. We reinvigorated the courts and prosecutions all over the government-held regions. This will help establishing security and stability in the government-held regions.
There are also several development and services projects such as Damps, hospitals, we have solar energy project with total capacity 120MGW, funded by the brothers in the United Arab Emirates. We have also around 17 developmental projects funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, road projects and coast guard projects.
We do call on the international community to support the coast guards in Yemen. The coast guards will help security the Yemeni seashores, they are very long extend up to 24ookm. At the same time they will fight terrorism and counter smuggling. The terrorism also is in existence on the other bank in the African Horn, the Somalis Youths Organization.
The Foreign Minister was in Somali recently, it is very important to establish coordination with the other bank in order to counter terrorism, smuggling and drugs. For this reason we need the international community's support for the coast guards, in terms of boats, training and logistical support. Somalis
Q: Taliban often said the International community have watched that we always have the time! Do you think the Houthis have the time? I would like you to say yes or no?
A: I do believe that we have peoples' cause, people who are suffering from the nightmare of these militias. The Yemeni people will keep on resisting, they will neither get fed up nor get tired of fighting until eliminating this nightmare.
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