Yemen foreign minister discuses federal state

The decision of the presidential committee to turn Yemen into a federal state comprising six regions raises questions about its impact on the country and the role of Saudi Arabia in the step.

al-monitor A map of Yemen shows the new six-region federation approved by its president, Feb. 10, 2014. Photo by REUTERS.

Topics covered

yemen, saudi arabia, politics, political power, houthis, constitutional reform, constitution

Feb 12, 2014

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi said, “The responsibility of Gulf countries toward Yemen is increasing after the ratification of the document dividing the country into six federal regions.” Qirbi denied the accusations leveled by Houthis that Saudi Arabia was the main beneficiary of such a decision, and said, “I do not believe Saudi Arabia is the [main] beneficiary. The Yemeni presidential committee, headed by the president, opted for the division option for the best interest of Yemenis. Saudi Arabia is committed to the stability and unity of Yemen.”

In an interview with Al-Hayat, Qirbi said, “The new federal system will allow Yemenis to overcome the conflicts taking place in Saada and the southern provinces, [where some are] calling for seceding.” He called on Yemenis “not to be preoccupied with politics and to channel their energy to build their state and turn a new leaf.”

Below is the full transcript of the interview:

Al-HayatHow do you perceive the announcement of Yemen’s division into federal regions? To what extent will security and stability prevail after this change?

Qirbi: The division of Yemen into regions came as a result of the National Dialogue Conference, during which it was agreed on Yemen becoming a federal state. The president was assigned to form a committee tasked with setting a new road map for the six-region Yemen. The aim of a federal state is to allow Yemenis to participate in the management of the affairs of the regions and to equally distribute the wealth.

What is more important is that the federal state will allow Yemenis to overcome decades of conflicts taking place in Saada and the southern provinces [that involve] calls for seceding. This is a political solution for the current situation in Yemen.

Al-HayatWas the decision unanimous, especially since the representative of the Houthis expressed his reservation?

Qirbi: We cannot please all parties in any issue we are trying to solve. At the end of the day, however, all parties should respect the decisions we agreed upon during the National Dialogue Conference and the assignment of the president. Certainly, the process will take years to be fully implemented, and not days as some expect. There is a possibility to make amendments, if the need arises in the future.

Al-HayatDoes this mean that the division is not final and that amendments may be made?

Qirbi: The decision is final and Yemen is now a six-region federal state. If the need to make geographical amendments among the regions arises, this issue will be looked into, as long as it is justified. I hope this will not be necessary. Laws and constitutions are not rigid and are subject to amendments.

Al-HayatWhen will the Yemenis reap the benefits of the division?

Qirbi: It is hard to specify a timeframe. I believe that the process of dividing the regions is related to the drafting of the constitution and the subsequent referendum, in addition to the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. After this, the mechanisms to form the regions will be launched. These regions will build their capacities and institutions and set their own laws [allowing them] to wield power. This process will rely on the interaction of the citizens and the legislative institutions in the country. The steps, however, will be launched after the ratification of the constitution.

Al-HayatSome say that the division has resulted in the creation of poor regions and rich regions, what is your comment on this?

Qirbi: I don’t think so. If we take a look at the regions, we will note that there are human and natural resources in every province. These two factors are present in all the regions that are to be formed.

Al-HayatHouthis accuse Saudi Arabia of being the main beneficiary of the division.

Qirbi: I do not believe Saudi Arabia is [the main] beneficiary of the division. The presidential committee, headed by the president, opted for division for the best interest of Yemenis, to create a real harmony between the land and the people. Saudi Arabia cares, first and foremost, about the stability of Yemen and it is committed to the stability and unity of Yemen. Saudi Arabia is not supporting the division for its own interests, but for the interests of Yemeni people.

Al-HayatWhat about the Gulf support? What about the countries that did not express interest in the new situation of Yemen?

Qirbi: We certainly do not want neighboring countries to [merely] offer their congratulations, rather we want genuine support to build the country and strong institutions that can achieve development and stability in this region. Currently, the role of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is important and will be even bigger toward their Yemeni brothers, since their future intertwines. We do not want to be excited about receiving congratulations, but rather about the needed support for the next phase. Yemenis are now optimistic about forming the regions, as they are about the results of the National Dialogue Conference. I call on Yemenis not to be preoccupied with politics and to channel their energy into building their state and turning a new leaf.

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
  • Al-Monitor Archives
  • The Week in Review
  • Exclusive Events
  • Invitation-only Briefings

More from  Ahmad Ghallab