Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Yemen PM promises govt soon, gets Saudi, UAE help

Tue Nov 29, 2011
SANAA Nov 29 (Reuters) - Yemen's prime minister-designate promised on Tuesday to announce his government within days, saying Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates would help the country with oil and electricity as it tries to pull back from the brink of civil war.
Mohammed Basindwa, a former foreign minister, has been tasked under a Gulf-brokered peace plan with forming the interim cabinet after President Ali Abdullah Saleh handed power to his deputy following 10 months of protests seeking his overthrow.
"The government will be announced within days," Basindwa told a meeting of opposition groups that he led during the protests against Saleh.
Basindwa said he had told the Saudi and UAE foreign ministers that "Yemen urgently needed immediate support in the electricity and oil sectors ... and they agreed to that".
It was not clear on what terms the two Gulf states were offering to help with the oil and power.
However, earlier this year Riyadh granted three million barrels of crude oil to Yemen, whose modest exports -- a source of revenue for imports of staple foodstuffs -- have often been halted by attacks on pipelines during the political standoff.
Yemeni Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has been empowered to run the country during an interim period, has called an early presidential election on Feb. 21, 2012 as part of the Gulf Coooperation Council initiative.
Hadi named Basindwa, who joined the opposition during the protests, as interim premier on Sunday.
Under the power transfer plan which Saleh signed in Riyadh last week, a government should be formed with the participation of opposition groups.
But it also effectively ensures Saleh and his family immunity from prosecution. This has angered youth organisers of the protests against Saleh's 33-year rule, during which hundreds of people have been killed and simmering conflicts with separatists and both Sunni and Shi'ite rebels have flared.

Stability remains elusive for Yemen

November 29, 2011
By James Fallon
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh last week signed a deal crafted by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to exit from power. While a marginally positive development, the pact is not sufficient to restore political stability in the near future. There are serious challenges to implementation and the ten-month political crisis has made ink on paper less relevant than the competing interests of Yemen's political players. Military and political power has fragmented to such a degree over the past ten months that repairing the state will be a difficult and protracted process. Furthermore, the deal does not satisfy the demands of protestors who have emerged as influential political stakeholders over the course of the crisis. And while most establishment players will likely work with the deal, they are not likely to quickly abandon any territorial, political, or military advantage gained over the past ten months.
Under the agreement, Saleh is to transfer his presidential powers to Vice President Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi while remaining honorary president for 90 days. Within this time, the vice president is expected to steward the formation of a national unity government chaired by an opposition figure (Hadi has tapped opposition leader and long-time Yemeni politician Mohammed Basindwa for the task) and preside over a presidential election, currently slated for February 2012. Hadi will also lead efforts to restructure the military. In return, Saleh is to receive immunity from prosecution.
But the deal is unlikely to usher in the return of a normal political process in such a neat timeframe. The most immediate challenge will be demilitarizing major cities such as Sana'a and Taiz and restructuring the military. Certain units remain under the control of Saleh's family members and allies, and others are controlled by their political rivals -- the GCC deal does not change this reality. Tribal forces have also proven formidable and have gained military control of some parts of the country; on-again off-again clashes between tribesmen and pro-Saleh units continue north of the capital. Should Saleh leave the country during the transition period, as has been rumored, it could reinforce the transition process's credibility. But he would still exercise influence. On Nov. 26, he issued a general amnesty, highlighting the ambiguity of his current position; a tactic that he has employed consistently to maintain his power. Protesters will continue to fill the streets in order to draw concessions from the political establishment; they reject the immunity clause in the GCC deal and remain suspicious of establishment opposition figures. Street protests alone are unlikely to derail the political process, but will influence its credibility and ultimate success or failure.
Apart from political wrangling, Yemen will also continue to face serious territorial challenges. The issue of southern independence, which has been largely eclipsed by the political standoff, will likely resurface as the country grapples with building a new governing structure. Further, the situation in Sa'ada province has deteriorated significantly, with increasing clashes between Salafist and Houthi militias. Clandestine financial or military assistance for these groups from the Gulf countries and Iran is difficult to gauge, but the perception alone heightens tensions. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has also gained room to operate as a result of the crisis and the state will remain constrained in its ability to confront the group. AQAP, however, will be hard pressed to cause any sustained disruptions to Saudi oil output or sea transport through the Gulf of Aden, and is highly unlikely to exercise any direct influence in the political process. The United States and Saudi Arabia will continue to use their military and intelligence capabilities to confront the group -- but neither of these countries has the capacity to effect a sustainable military solution to Yemen's problems.
James Fallon is an associate with Eurasia Group's Middle East practice.

UN - Security Council Press Statement on Situation in Yemen

The following Security Council press statement was issued today by Council President José Filipe Moraes Cabral (Portugal):
On 29 November, the members of the Security Council heard a briefing on the situation in Yemen from the United Nations Special Adviser, Jamal Benomar, and the Deputy Director for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) Coordination and Response Division, Philippe Lazzarini.
The members of the Security Council commended the efforts of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and of the United Nations Special Adviser, Mr. Benomar. They welcomed the agreement by the parties, on the basis of the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, as well as the signing of the initiative by the President of Yemen, and the signing by the parties of the implementation mechanism, thus beginning the period of peaceful transition of power, as called for in Security Council resolution 2014 (2011).
The members of the Security Council agreed that the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative and implementation mechanism must now be implemented in a serious, transparent and timely manner, and in a spirit of inclusion and reconciliation. They noted the Security Council’s support for Yemen in its efforts to reach key milestones in the implementation plan, and expected the parties to honour the timetable set out in the agreement, including the formation of a Government of National Consensus, presidential elections within 90 days, a national dialogue, a constitutional review and a programme of reforms that start to tackle the profound humanitarian, economic and security challenges that Yemen faces.
The members of the Security Council reaffirmed their commitment to the territorial integrity and unity of Yemen. They urged all the parties to reject violence, refrain from any further provocations and to fully implement Security Council resolution 2014 (2011). The members of the Security Council reiterated that all those responsible for violence, human rights violations and abuses should be held accountable. They deplored the violence on 24 November that reportedly led to five deaths in Sana’a. The members of the Security Council emphasized the need for increased and unimpeded humanitarian access to address the growing crisis. The members of the Security Council also called on all the Yemeni parties to work with the increasing support of the United Nations, international community and the GCC countries, immediately towards achieving peace, stability and reconciliation, as well as alleviating the humanitarian and economic situation in Yemen.
The members of the Security Council welcomed the efforts of the good offices of the Secretary-General and the dispatch of the United Nations electoral assistance mission. They reaffirmed their intention to continue to actively monitor the security, political and humanitarian situation in Yemen and the implementation of Security Council resolution 2014 (2011). They looked forward to a further update on the situation within 30 days, including on the status of the implementation of the political transition agreements.