The Friends of Yemen are meeting today in New York under the co-chairmanship of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Yemen and the United Kingdom. Opening the meeting, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said:
We are meeting at a pivotal and dangerous moment for Yemen.
The next days and weeks could decide whether this country is able to return to the path to stability, or whether it slides deeper into conflict.
We should be clear: the use of violence to make political gains, and the pointless loss of life it entails, are completely unacceptable.
Not only does the recent violence damage Yemen’s political transition process, it could fuel new tensions and strengthen the hand of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – threatening the security of all of us.
The people of Yemen have, through the National Dialogue, overwhelmingly demanded a peaceful, stable and democratic future for their country.
That is what the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative aims to help bring about, and what this group exists to support.
But it can only happen if Yemen’s political actors join together, act in the interests of the country as a whole, and refrain from divisive politics.
Through the National Dialogue process they have managed this before, and through the peace agreement reached on 21 September, they must do so again.
I pay tribute to President Hadi, and to the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser Jamal Benomar for their efforts to secure that deal.
What is essential now is that the agreement is respected and properly implemented.
First and most urgently, there needs to be rapid progress on stabilisation. That means ceasing hostilities and putting into effect the security provisions of the peace agreement. There can be no justification for reneging on those provisions or putting them in doubt.
I recognise, however, that some are linked to political progress.
I hope that today we can send a strong message of support to President Hadi as he implements the political elements of the agreement. Above all, we must support the rapid formation of a new national unity government that can start to rebuild stability.
But we must also ensure there are costs for those who seek to destabilise Yemen. So it is essential that we continue to support the United Nations Security Council and its Sanctions Committee in implementing the restrictive measures under UN Security Council Resolution 2140.
Those who threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen, or violate human rights, need to pay the price for their actions.
Finally, we must not lose sight of the political, economic and security reforms Yemen urgently needs.
The UK is providing over £70m in assistance in this financial year alone, aimed at supporting those reforms as well as improving basic services, food security and job creation.
And we have also been providing expertise to help the Yemeni security forces as they take on AQAP – with great courage and at the cost of many lives.
My message today is that the UK remains committed to working with Yemen, and the Friends of Yemen group. I am certain others will endorse that during the course of the meeting.
At a time of turmoil in the wider Middle East, it is more important than ever that we help Yemen step back from the brink and avoid the level of instability we see elsewhere.
Our assistance can be a vital support as Yemen negotiates this difficult and dangerous period and I look forward to hearing others’ thoughts on what more we can do.