Written By: Shuaib M. al-Mosawa
Article Date: Apr 4, 2012 - 4:39:14 PM
Senior U.S. official Jeffrey Feltman has called on Yemenis to start working on the National Dialogue, the second phase in the nation’s transitional period, an important step in facing and overcoming the many challenges that face Yemen in the run-up to the presidential election in 2014.
U.S. Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman met on March 28 with Yemeni officials.
In his two-day visit to Yemen, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman met on March 28 with Yemeni officials directly concerned with the transitional period. Feltman referred to the dialogue as “the important next phase in the transition.”
Feltman’s visit came as dialogue between Yemeni political rivals had reached a deadlock, bringing a halt to implementation of the U.S.-backed Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) power transfer deal.
The national dialogue, a key aspect of the GCC plan, will engage all political powers not involved in the plan’s first phase, including the secessionist southern movement and the northern rebel Houthi group. Both have refused engagement with the GCC plan. “We think it’s important that the National Dialogue preparatory committee be named and that it begins its work soon,” said Feltman in a press conference on March 28 in Sana’a.
“This [National Dialogue] is really the most important phase right now in the ongoing transition. The National Dialogue will be able to receive input, ideas, from a broad spectrum of Yemeni society.
And its deliberations will help define some of the other important phases ahead, such as the drafting of the constitution and setting up the framework for the 2014 elections,” said Feltman.
Feltman, whose government has actively backed the plan, and who serves as a witness to its implementation, said he also met with activists from the south, which has witnessed growing secession sentiments, to address their grievances.
“We believe that those legitimate grievances that southerners have can best be addressed through the National Dialogue process; we think it’s important that they fully participate in deliberations such as the National Dialogue. So we want to see a process by which the legitimate grievances of the southerners, as well as the grievances of other Yemenis, are addressed in a process that preserves and strengthens Yemen’s unity,” said Feltman.
According to the GCC Implementation Mechanism, the National Dialogue should already be under way. It has, however, been stalled by rival parties’ arguments over a point in the GCC plan which calls for a restructuring of the security forces and military, and a demand raised by the former opposition alliance that ousted president Saleh’s relatives be removed from key military positions.
Yemen’s air force continues to be headed by Saleh’s half-brother, and has been subject to an effective mutiny by air force personnel. U.S. envoy to Yemen Gerald Feierstein has termed the mutiny “unacceptable,” as it could stall international efforts aimed at helping Yemen proceed to the next stage of the GCC plan.
“Officers are not entitled to protest decisions relating to military leadership, which rests only in the hands of the government and senior state officials. It is unacceptable that soldiers demand the removal of their leaders from their posts…,” said Feierstein in an interview on state TV in February.
Feltman said that a restructuring of the military is a key condition for long-term stability in Yemen. “…But based on military reorganizations worldwide, I think that one should anticipate that this is a relatively long process. The ultimate goal, of course, is to have unified professional security forces that can protect the unity of Yemen and defend Yemen from outside problems and be accountable to the civilian leadership that’s elected by the Yemeni people… And I’m confident that issues of personalities that loom very large today will naturally be taken care of through the process of military reorganization and restructuring,” said Feltman.
In response to an estimate by the United Nations that Yemen requires about $450 million to tackle urgent humanitarian needs, Feltman announced that the United States will be contributing a further $36 million in aid. Coupled with other forms of economic and civilian support, Feltman said, “We will be providing over $100 million in humanitarian economic assistance to Yemen this year.”
The United Nations Security Council has meanwhile issued a statement in praise of the “Yemen-led peaceful transition process to a just and democratic political system.” The report noted potential obstacles to progress in implementing the GCC deal, including an apparent lack of resolve by political parties to move forward with the transition process.
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